Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Catchin'

Sebastian Inlet, about three hours south of Jacksonville, is a fisher-persons's paradise. The area used to have a thriving commercial fishing industry. A change in fishing laws (to protect from over-fishing) as well as a hurricane put an end to commercial fishing. However, the inlet is a haven for sports fishing.

I reported that on Sunday we went down to the jetty and watched people haul in HUGE fish. One young man pulled in a snook that had to be three-feet long. (If it was that long, he had to throw it back. Snook is a slot-fish. Only those between 28" and 32" can be kept.) "Ah," we thought, "we will finally catch some fish!"

So...the next day we went down to the jetty and fished. And fished. And fished. We didn't even get a nibble. We weren't the only ones; no one was catching fish on Monday. Maybe the fish knew we were there; perhaps we were jinxes.

Yesterday was a different story. In the morning, we fished off a fishing pier on the lagoon in the state park. I almost immediately caught a fish...unfortunately it was a little pin fish, about 5 inches long. Pin fish are bait fish. I decided to cut it up and use it as bait.

Jim caught a starfish.

That brownish blur is a manatee that decided our fishing spot was a good place for brunch.

In a little while, I had my second catch: a good-sized hardhead catfish. It was big enough to offer some nice filets, but we decided to toss it back. Saltwater catfish are considered trash fish. We subscribe to the theory that all fish are edible. Some are more tasty than others, however. The hardhead is not bad to eat; it's just not delicious.

I had been fishing with bait; Jim had been using artificial lures. He finally switched to bait after the pin fish nibbled away at two or three of his soft lures. His only catch? A starfish. Obviously not edible, but interesting!

The morning was highlighted by a manatee that decided to brunch on the underwater greens near us. 

During the afternoon's outgoing tide, we went back to the jetty. We took a position on the ocean-side of the jetty, about 10 feet away from an Asian couple.

That man and woman snagged fish after after! Within 20 minutes, I swear that had caught 20 fish. Many were jack crevalles, a fish that many (again) consider trash.  This fish has no size or quantity limits. I caught two, one which was too small to keep. Jim caught a small one.



The prize for fishing in our family, though, went to Jim: He caught a 19 1/2 inch red drum--the first red he has ever caught in his 81 years! A bit later, he caught another red, but it was undersized. (They must be between 18" and 27" and only one per person is allowed.)

We left the jetty around 5 p.m. and stopped within the park to clean our catch. The cleaning table had running water. Waste water (and any scraps) rinsed down a pipe into the lagoon. Three big birds (a species of egret, I believe) waited at the end of the pipe. They actually fought after a piece of waste! But all of them went away well fed.


One last day of fishing. I hope it is profitable for our dinner table tonight. Dinner last night was delicious.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda



Monday, October 29, 2018

Locked in!

As I have written so many times before, even retirees need a vacation, and for the next several days, that is what we are doing--vacationing.

We arrived at Sebastian Inlet State Park (about 3 hours south of Jacksonville) yesterday afternoon. This is a beautiful area, with many places to fish, including just off out campsite. We went down to one of the piers yesterday afternoon. People were pulling in huge (36-inch) fish (snook), as well as smaller species. Today we will try our angling skills. Our campsite has an unobstructed view of the inlet, with the ability to fish by walking across the road. The park has many other places to fish, however.




The state Department of Natural Resources still has the park listed as having red tide, but there is no evidence of it. Birds are fishing; people are fishing. Some people are also going into the water. This morning it was only in the upper 50s, and water temperature is only in the 70s, so I won't be getting wet any time soon--at least intentionally.

The fishing is promising, but the big news is that we were locked in last night!

Jim was going to go outside and check on the awning before coming to bed. He could not get the door open! Obviously, 11 p.m. is not the time to try to fix a problem such as a stuck door, so we "slept on it." The problem, of course, didn't go away during the night.

He wondered if there was a problem with the chassis...somehow buckling? Sounded far-fetched, but who knows?

Anyway, Jim couldn't get the door open from the inside, so he climbed out through the emergency escape window in the bedroom. Fortunately, ours is not a tall RV, so the drop to the ground was not bad. Now we know how to escape.

The problem with the door turned out to be a screw that had semi-dislodged and jammed the door so that it couldn't open. He managed to pry it open, reset the screw, and we are back in business. Problem solved.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Linda, 6; Jim, 0

In a turn of events, I out-fished Jim. (Jim usually out-fishes me!) That is not saying much, considering that my take-home of the six little bluegills I caught over two days was only two fish, but Jim didn't catch anything. (Lots of nibbles, though.)

The fishing may be good in the Chain of Lakes in Lake County, Florida, if you are out in a boat, but it certainly is nothing to brag about when fishing from a pier (which seem to be in short supply, too). We stopped at a bait store and inquired about public fishing piers. The clerk told us about three in the area; we tried two of them.

The first pier we used was probably not meant to be in use any more, since access was not immediately visible. We parked in a boat-launch parking lot, then hiked about a quarter mile, first down a sidewalk, then through a field of sandspurs. (Sandspurs are pesky stickers that really are painful when you step on them. We discovered that they not only stick to your socks, they also stick to the bottom of sneakers and then escape into carpet. Ouch!) The pier was in disrepair, with rotten boards and holes in the flooring. We took care not to trip as we walked on it. Despite all of the good worms on our hooks, we had no takers, not even a nibble. Either it was too hot, the wrong time of day, or there just weren't any fish.

The next place was in a park with a boat ramp and an outlet that went to Lake Griffin. It was there that I had my luck. The first night I caught four bluegills (two keepers), the second night two. (Jim would say 1 and 1/2, since the last one I was reeling in jumped off the line before I could get my hands on it. It was so small it was going to go back into the water anyway.) We fed the fish well those two evenings. The second night, we had to leave before dark because we ran out of bait. Oh, well.
My two little bluegills await Jim's scaling knife.
Yesterday (before going fishing) we also traveled out to Howie-in-the-Hills (yes, that is the name of a town in Lake County), where we visited a plant nursery. Jim had found the nursery on e-Bay and discovered that it was actually in a nearby town. We arranged to buy some plants directly from the grower instead of having them shipped to us.

The grower was very generous. Jim had anticipated buying plants in two-inch pots. Instead, the grower let us have huge plants, some of which will bear fruit next season! We will have a paw-paw tree, a mulberry tree,  Okinawa spinach (a purplish-colored green), three kinds of dragon fruit (pink, purple and white), a boynsenberry bush, three kinds of fig trees, a blackberry bush,  and a vick's plant (its leaves smell like menthol). The grower gave us a couple of the plants gratis. As I said, he was very generous. A few of those plants are more than four feet tall! The cost: $82.

After buying the plants, we decided to cut our camping trip a day short. Fishing was not great; we had exhausted touring points of local interest; and we wanted to watch our college football games on TVs with good reception on Saturday--at home.

So, that is where we are. We arrived home and unloaded Thor about three hours ago.

We had a great time, but there is no place like home.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Fruitless in Fruitland

We are staying at Lake Griffin State Park in Fruitland, Fl., a town that is in Lake County. The county is aptly named because of its chain of lakes--big ones and small ones. The lakes are its primary attraction.

Tuesday Jim and I went off  in search of the Lake County Visitors' Bureau. It apparently no longer exists. Perhaps the citizens of Lake County think that the lakes themselves are enough of an attraction that they no longer need to publicize other events and entertainment within the county. Or perhaps they just don't care. At any rate, after being sent to two different locations, we were told the visitors' office no longer exists.

We resorted to going to local Chambers of Commerce, generally a good source to find things to do within a community. We were out of luck, in most cases.

At one place, we were given a map, which listed a number of "attractions," ranging from the showroom of the Central Florida Segway Company to a petting farm. After looking up all of these attractions, we agreed: There is not much to do in Lake County, Fla., except activities on the lake.

I say "on" the lake, not "at" the lake, because the communities around here seem to have a dearth of public fishing areas. There are plenty of boat docks, but not fishing piers.

Yesterday we did go to one tourist attraction--Mount Dora, Fla., a quaint town that has maintained its historical heritage. The chamber provided us with a map for both a walking tour as well as a driving tour to view a number of well-kept houses, some dating back to the 19th century. We spent a nice afternoon driving and walking around, and even bought some wonderful balsamic vinegars in a shop devoted to balsamics and olive oils.

We will be going in search of a "fishing hole" (pier) and hope that some bass or crappies swim near enough to us to be tempted by our lures.

Are we bored yet? No. It is just nice to do nothing.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,
Linda

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Vacationing in Fruitland, Fla.

You would think that since we are retired, we don't need a vacation. The opposite is true. At home, we are busier than ever.

Jim has a long list of to-do tasks (I don't call them "honey-do" because he creates the list himself), in addition to the "normal" stuff that takes up his day. He loves tending his garden and farming his worms. (Yes, he has a small worm farm. One box is for fishing worms, and one is for worm castings, which make excellent soil enhancements.) Then, there are "extra" tasks, such as fixing things that break down. He also spends time working on arranging his workshop, so that eventually he'll have the room in the garage to do woodworking.

Me? House cleaning is not my forte, so I procrastinate until the dust accumulates so much I cannot stand it any more. I like to cook and bake. But mostly, I like to write. So I spend a lot of time on my computer.

You might notice that I haven't mentioned fishing as part of our regular life style. We go out to our pond and catch a few bass every week, but we rarely take time to go surf, pier, or boat fishing while at home. We keep promising ourselves to rectify that flow in our lives.

So, that is why we, as retired people, take vacations--to get away from it all.

Right now we are at another state park. We have grown very fond of Florida state parks. They are very affordable; this one (Lake Griffin State Park) only costs $9 a night! As seniors, we are able to camp in state parks at a 50% discount.

When we decide we want to camp, we start at the Florida state park web site and find places that meet our needs in terms of distance, activities, sites to see, fishing, as well as the number of nights we want to stay.

This week we are at Lake Griffin State Park in Fruitland, Fla., next to Leesburg, which is near The Villages in east central Florida. It is a small park, only about 500 acres, and it is convenient to shopping. Unlike others we have used, groceries and other stores are only a few minutes (and about two miles) away. This is like an oasis in the city.
Jim in front of the live oak tree in Lake Griffin State Park.
Lake Griffin State Park is home to Florida's second largest (and perhaps second-oldest) live oak tree.
This live oak tree is pretty darn big. Some of its branches have obviously been removed. The huge live oak tree in Jacksonville has some of its branches propped up, in order to preserve the tree's integrity. The live oak tree in the state park is estimated to be about 300 years old. The one in Jacksonville is about 150 years old.
We chose this park because of its proximity to the many lakes in Lake County, and presumably, its good fishing. We are hoping to find some fishing piers. The one in the park looked promising on the website. Unfortunately, the pier is full of growth and the ranger said fishing there is poor. Fishing is good, she said, about a mile away on the lake. We don't have a boat.

The park only has 40 camping sites, all of which are very private. We learned (after we had made reservations) that about 10 sites even offer sewer hookups! We are not inconvenienced by not having a sewer hookup, however. Our small RV has a tiny shower, so we actually prefer using the showers in the campground.

We haven't gone fishing yet, but we will. Yesterday we spent "touristing" around the area. Although I have lived in Florida for 20 years and Jim for most of his life, neither of us has actually driven around and visited the central Florida area.

We wanted to find the Lake County visitors' bureau to get information on what to do around here. We went to the address given on the website; it had moved. We were told where it moved; when we got there, we discovered it had been closed for several months! I guess Lake County (aptly named because of all the large lakes around here) doesn't want visitors! We will have to find our way around without maps and brochures, I guess.

Last night, we went to a local street event, geared (we discovered) toward kids and sponsored by the local police department. Food and fun, if you were 10. There were a lot of people there.

I am standing next to a "transformer" who captivated kids' attention at the local street fair in Leesburg. He actually got down on all fours and scooted via motorized wheels. 

Later today, I think we will go fishing. Or not. It just feels good to do nothing.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda