About an hour later, we arrived at one of the many freshwater springs north of Orlando. These springs usually have shallow crystal clear water. It was beautiful to look at, but the clear water made fishing particularly tough.
We were restricted to only two fishing docks at the park. All other areas were off limits to fishing. The hike into the swampy area was a treat though.
While walking to one of the fishing docks, we passed over a tiny trickle of water. We were looking to see whether there were Sailfin Molly in the stream when Michael spotted some kind of shiner sitting over the sand. There was just that one shiner. Michael offered me the chance to try for it and I hooked the fish on the tanago hook...but as I lifted the fish above the water, it flopped off the hook. :(
We finally reached the fishing dock and started looking for Dollar Sunfish. They were nowhere to be found and I even fished under the mats of shallow weeds tight to shore.
Michael saw some fish with dark vertical bands and white fin margins. I knew they were Bluegills but Michael wouldn't believe me and he thought they were tilapia. I left him to chase after them and these fish were extremely wary in the crystal clear water. He spent a lot of time on the Bluegills while I found Seminole Killifish. Once we know what to look for, we found many Seminole Killifish and Michael caught one too.
Seminole Killifish (Fundulus seminolis) - Species #386
We couldn't find the Dollar Sunfish or the Sailfin Molly, so we moved to the next dock.
We finally found the Sailfin Molly at this dock but the swarms of Eastern Mosquitofish would not allow us to fish worms or bread at all. They would even simply grabbed onto the tip of a piece of worm and held on long enough for us to swing the fish up the dock without being hooked in the first place!
Spotted Sunfish were shy but we were still able to catch them sparingly.
I saw that the Sailfin Molly were ripping pieces of algae off. I dragged an empty tanago hook through the algae to collect a clump, then balled up the clump onto the tip of the hook. The mollies would suck the clump but spat it out just as quick. I tried to set the hook using all sorts of timing but it was never quick enough. None of the mollies swallowed the algae deep enough either for a good hookset.
After trying for an hour for the mollies, I gave up. Michael had no interest on these unwilling micros and took a nap on the bench. If it had been a big shark, he would have use dhis very last bloody ounce of energy to make it bite.
It was a shame that we ran out of time for the day. I wanted to make it back to Orlando in time to get my cousin and his wife a couple of gift cards...and luckily we got there 15 minutes before the store closes! We were caught in some traffic on International Drive going back to my cousins but he had already started preparing our awesome Surf-and-Turf dinner that night. My cousin had just taken 4 deer on his recent hunts so we had grilled venison as the Turf. We added in our grunts and Graysby to the dinner as the Surf. Needless to say we had some good eats!
That was all the fishing we had in Florida. We spent New Years with my cousin's friends at a wicked house party and had too much to eat. We started our drive north on January 2 and drove through some scary whiteout conditions near Lexington, KY at night. Thankfully the weather was dry and clear on January 3 as we got home right on time.
I did much better than expected on this Florida trip. It was surprising that most of my targets were met, except for Blacktip Shark, Bonnethead Shark and Dollar Sunfish. I added 30 new species on this trip, which surpassed my estimate of 25 new species at the start of the trip! This also meant I added a total of 103 new species in 2013!
I was happy to crossed off Spanish Mackerel and Cownose Ray to close the chapter on those two species. The big Nurse Shark was the icing on the cake definitely. I had a blast fishing with Ben, Ruoxi and Miciah (and maybe even the rabbit-footed, horseshoe-up-his-arse, and shamrock-totting Michael), and even better to have the chance to meet 4 new friends - Martini, Ryan, Meghan and Leo - who I hope I will have the opportunity to fish with them again. I also have to say thanks to our Keys fishing guru for his help giving us all the information he could to help us do well. I hope to fish with him on the next trip when he has healed. Best of all, I spent Christmas and New Years surround by family and friends in sunny Florida! If at all possible, I might do it again next year. ;)