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Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies

"I grew to love seeing the moon and stars at a young age, as I slept outside whenever my parents would allow it. Maybe I got the idea from movie and television cowboys like Roy Rogers, who strummed their guitars around the campfire before going to sleep under a “blanket of stars.” However it came about, my earliest memory of noticing the night sky came as I lay on my back and looked up to see Goofy in a big yellow moon.

"Then I began to study the stars, possibly as I graduated from cowboys to spacemen. I put away my hat and boots and made a rocket ship out of large cardboard box, with toilet paper tubes as my propulsion units. I wrote to NASA and asked for photos of the astronauts. And I learned about constellations."

Excerpt from the essay "Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies," from the book by the same name.


Lizard Lips

Even if you haven't kissed a lizard as I often do, you'll enjoy Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies: Growing Up With Nature, my newest collection of essays. It's a great Christmas present for family and friends who love nature.

And for the anglers, please consider Why We Fish and/or Better Bass Fishing. All three are available on Amazon.


Lake Okeechobee Adventure

Heading into the marsh

I just spent a couple of days fishing Lake Okeechobee with Sam Griffin, my good friend and a legendary guide and luremaker. Cold weather arrived with me, sorry to say, which made the fishing tough. On the first day, we fished out of Okeechobee and managed to catch 16 bass, nothing larger than 2 1/2 pounds. We never did establish a pattern, catching them on soft swimbaits, topwaters, and Texas-rig Senkos.


My biggest

On the second day, we fished out of Harney Pond Canal and finally managed a pattern  when weather turned sunny and warmer in the afternoon. We caught most of our fish on Texas-rig Senkos in June bug around flooded willows and bulrush clumps.  Right after lunch, I quickly boated two nice fish (2 to 3 pounds) and set the hook on another, which made a huge swirl, before digging deep into surrounding hydrilla. Using braid, I thought that I'd have no problem pulling out the bass. I was wrong. It pulled off. When I checked the bait, I noticed that when the bass struck, it pushed the tail of the Senko up onto the hook and so, when I set it, the barb didn't penetrate as it should have.

Sam's crankbait

Sam Griffin is most noted for his wooden topwater baits (You can find them at a few retailers locally in south Florida, as well as on Ebay.), but he also made the crankbait used to catch this bass.

Snail kites

I saw more snail kites (also known as Everglades kites) on this trip than ever before. These predatory birds that feed on apple snails were listed as endangered in 1967, and their range in the United States is limited to a few watersheds in central and south Florida. On the upper end of Lake Okeechobee, platforms have been put up to provide solid footing for the birds to eat the snails. I also saw snail eggs on stalks of many plants. Although he's lived on the lake all of his life, Sam said the he hadn't seen these eggs until the past few years. My guess is that they're from a species of apple snail from South America that already is established at Lake Toho, as well as in Louisiana.


Although I've seen hundreds of alligators at Lake Okeechobee over the years, I had never seen one quite so "friendly" as this one. When I cast near a flooded willow, I saw a huge swirl and, at first, thought that  it was made by a big bass. But then this four-foot gator followed my bait all the way back to the boat and didn't want to leave. It just hung around, as if waiting for us to share our lunch. We didn't.


Gator Bait

This guy followed my bait back to the boat, as I was fishing Lake Okeechobee. I was wishing that I had saved a Fig Newton from lunch to offer him. He didn't want to leave either, so we finally did.

I was fishing the Big O with Sam Griffin, my good friend and a legendary guide and luremaker.

More later about that trip, including what we caught and how. Right now, I'm still on the road.


Kite Courtship

I took this photo today of what appears to be courtship between a pair of snail kites (Everglades kites) on Lake Okeechobee.  Fishing was tough both days that I was there, but Sam Griffin and I managed to catch a few this afternoon, as sun warmed us and the water a bit. We also had a close encounter with an alligator. Will post more later.