NANFA-- Florida and georgia fishing

geoff (
Sat, 14 Jun 2003 22:16:05 -0400

Last week, my family and I went to Florida for a short vacation. We had
planned to stay in Ft Meyers, but ended up in Englewood. the condo we
rented stated that it was in the Ft Meyers area. Hmmm. If you count 70
miles across a bay as close, then I guess it is.

Anyway, this was planned to be a family vacation, so I did not plan to do a
week of fishing. After watching me mope about the beach for 3 days, my wife
relented and said that we could go fishing. Woo-Hoo!!

My main goal was to come home with 6 flag fish for my tropical tank that is
just about to suffer an attack of hair algae.

We started off in Sarasota, in a couple of municipal parks. The first park
we looked at specifically forbid net fishing. Rats. must have seen me
coming. The next park had a good sized lake, but it was really pretty
nasty. We just found gambusia and a small couple juvenile bluegills. We met
a couple of park system employees and told them what we were looking for.
They sent us up to an old phosphate pit which was now a large pond. When we
arrived at the pond, we were pretty interested, as there were lots of plants
growing along the margins of the pond. Noah and I waded in and began
scooping. We found bluegills, gambusia and swamp darters. And ants. lots
of little stinging ants that seemed to be lurking in the grass in the water,
waiting to ambush people wading in the pond. OUCH! we abandoned the site
as quickly as possible.

Then we went to the Myakka River state park. We checked at gate to make
sure that we could fish in the park and were assured that this would not be
a problem. Minutes later, while we were walking around with a dip net,
another ranger stopped us and asked what we were doing. It turns out his
main concern was that I was not after game fish with a dip net. Once I told
him that any game fish I caught were returned unharmed to the water
immediately, he lost interest.

We stopped at the first bridge over the Myakka river and I got to work with
a dip net. I caught Heterandria formosa and gambusia in the grass growing
along the edge of the river. I also seemed to be very interesting to a
large alligator that came barreling down stream straight at me. By large, I
mean like 10 feet or so. I had my son on gator watch duty, but I had a
really tough time keeping my mind on fishing when I had a large gator
swimming about 20 feet off, just watching me. I wasn't sure if I was
dinner, a threat, or just some entertainment on a boring afternoon. I lost
my nerve after a little while, and moved up river. When I left the water,
the gator lost interest and swam off. With Noah on gator watch duty, I kept
fishing. I caught gambusia again, more Heterandria formosa, sailfin
mollies, and some juvenile cichlids. There are two different varieties,
which I kept. If they were spotted tilapia, I apparently violated the law,
which prohibits possession of live spotted tilapia. I read the fishing
guide book and I don't remember seeing this tidbit.

I talked Julie in to bringing the seine down to the river, and with Noah on
gator patrol, we began seining. in addition to the earlier mentioned
species, we also caught Fundulus seminolis (Seminole killifish). Julie was
very jumpy about the gators patrolling the river a few feet away, so we
finished up in a hurry and left.

We went on to upper lake Myakka, still looking for flag fish. In the lake
we found Heterandria and gambusia of course, along with more juvenile
cichlids, but no flag fish.

By this time, I was getting pretty unhappy. I had collected flag fish up
north of Tampa with Allen Boatman, so I somehow convinced my wife to agree
to the 80 mile drive and off we went. Since I had not planned to be this
far north, I had not contacted Allen ahead of time to arrange a meeting. I
tried to find the place that we had collected flag fish, but with no
success. I also tried to find Allen's phone number to call and say howdy,
but he seems to be unlisted. We eventually went to Lake park (On Dale Mabry
road) and got to work. In the first scoop, I caught some really nice
sailfin mollies and a juvenile walking catfish. Over the next hour, I also
caught Heterandria, gambusia, flag fish, bluefin killies, more juvenile
cichlids, redear sunfish, and a couple Fundulus chrysotus. Of interest, I
collected 4 melanistic gambusia, all males. I am not a big fan of gambusia,
but the speckling was pretty interesting.

Overall, I was impressed by how warm the water was this time of year. In
the shallows of Myakka lake, the water seemed to be warmer than body temp.
I did not bring a thermometer, so I don't know the actual temp, but it was
quite warm none the less. Despite the temperature, the area was full of
gambusia, Heterandria, and juvenile cichlids. Even the bluefin killies and
flag fish were in extremely warm water. I was actually concerned that the
fish were cooling off too much in the net before I could get them into the
bucket. Pretty much the opposite of my normal concerns with my local fish.

On the way home to Lexington a few days later, we made a detour to Waycross
Georgia for some Leptolucania ommata. I returned to a site that Steven
Ellis showed me on the original Okeefenokee swamp thing a couple of years
ago. At this site, we collected gambusia, L ommata, many unidentified pygmy
sunfish, Fundulus lineolatus, and a newcomer - Fundulus cingulatus. This is
my third time at this site, but this was the first time I found F

All in all, this was a good trip.

Geoff Kimber
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