Friday, October 23, 2009

Get Off The Beach... In Good Weather

Mosquito Creek Outdoors Indian River Lagoon Coast Fishing Report 10-23-09

By Captain Tom Van Horn

It's 21 days into my recovery from abdominal surgery and I'm feeling stronger and better each day. I've finally recovered to the point where I can start fishing again, but I still need another week or two before I start doing charters again.

With that said, most of the information this week comes to you from my good friends on the water.

alligator on bank
Big Econ Gator

On Monday, several of my good fishing buddies came by the house and together we hooked up the Three Quarter Time (my trusty Maverick skiff) and headed to the St Johns River. Our mission was basically to run the boat and fish a little, so I rig up some crappie jigs and brought along a bag of frozen shrimp.


Don's Econ Catfish

Although we have received very little rain, we found the water levels on the St. Johns and the Econ Creek high and a stiff north wind made crappie fishing on Lake Harney a no-go. So we decided to try for some catfish instead, and we entered the Econ Creek and fished in a deep bend with dead shrimp on the bottom. Although the bite wasn't on fire we still managed 5 respectable channel catfish up to 8 pounds.


Mark Blyth's Econ Catfish

On the Mosquito Lagoon, Captain Chris Myers reports that the water levels are still high, but the water has cleaned up considerable. Again the bite has been tough with windy and cloudy conditions, but he did mention the larger sea trout are returning to the flats. Additionally, the Aries Rocket is poised for its maiden voyage on Pad 39B, so the south end of the Mosquito Lagoon will close this morning at 9am with launch scheduled for Tuesday the 27th at 0800 hours.

Out of Port Canaveral, the mullet are still running down the beach, but strong winds and rough seas have shut down fishing outside the Port. In spite of the tough conditions, anglers are still catching some nice snook, flounder, Spanish mackerel, jacks and bluefish around the north jetty, and with the weather improving and seas settling down this weekend, there is still time to enjoy the last few weeks of the mullet run. With that said, I would suggest running the beach south if the lunch security zones are in place, and look for schools of Atlantic menhaden (pogies) and target tarpon. Also, good numbers of cobia and tripletail were caught before last week's cold front, so when the seas settle down, I would suggest running out to about 40 feet of water and give sight fishing a shot

All in all, the weather is improving for the weekend, so make your plans tonight and be safe on the water. Lastly, sea trout season closes November 1st, so if you plan on targeting a few sea trout for supper, you have this week to accomplish that task.

Good luck and good fishing,

Captain Tom Van Horn
407-416-1187 on the water
407-366-8085 land line

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Episode 3

Happy Creek Chronicles
By Tom Van Horn

As we motored towards the headwaters of the creek, you could hear distant thunder rumbling above the sound of our idling outboard engine. The air was thickened with steam and heavily charged with positive ions making breathing a chore. This summertime ritual of afternoon heating, clashing of sea breezes, intense fast moving lighting storms and our evening bath in the springs were all events signifying the end to a summer's day on Happy Creek.

The headwaters of the creek consisted of a number of fresh water boils in the bottom of a small pond covering no more than an acre or two. Cool sweet water boiled through the white sandy bottom in rolling waves of crystal clear currents which not only cleansed your body, but also your soul. Serving as a source of lifeblood for the River Rat community, the spring provided water for drinking and bathing, and a consistent 72-degree spring 'run' flowing about a mile or so before empting into a lagoon. On many occasions the evening storms would arrive late, forcing us to make our pilgrimage in the dark. We would guide our boats using the celestial reflections of the moon and stars on the water against the dark silhouette of the shoreline. When we arrived at the boil, we would lose our clothes and jump in. The first thing I'd do when my head went under was to gulp down several mouthfuls of sweet spring water, and the hot summertime stickiness on our skin was washed away in a matter of seconds. When you opened your eyes under water you could see the glimmering reflection of the night's light on the white sandy bottom and if you lay quietly just under the surface, you could hear the thundering surf on the beach less than a mile away. It was important to use ivory soap for bathing, not because of its cleaning ability, but because of floating ability. When you're bathing in a lake or stream, especially at night, floating soap is essential. After bathing and filling our water jugs, we would make our way back to the camp. The combination of the evening swim, fresh air, and a cool clean body, made for a night of trouble free dreams. The next thing you'd know, you'd wake up to the cries of the limpkins and herons and the sun's rays stretching into the new day.

My experiences of growing up on Happy Creek covered only a momentary span in time compared to the rich and significant history of Florida and Happy Creek. Happy Creek and its environs have one of the most extensive periods of historic development in North America. From the present day events of contemporary Florida, to the Native Americans who occupied the Windover Farms area around 6,000 BC, the lagoon has been forced to change. It is said; the fresh water springs once served a spiritual gathering place for the Ais Indians, who occupied Florida's coastline before the first documented contacts with European Explorers occurred. The springs were the site of Spanish exploration when Juan Ponce de Leon paid visit to them in his quest for the fountain of youth in 1513. From that day on, Happy Creek served as regular supply stop for mariners on their return trip up the American coast to Europe. They would anchor out and go ashore filling their water kegs in the springs before making their crossing on their return trip home.

Referred to by the locals as Happy Springs, the boils were guarded by a rather large cottonmouth water moccasin known by most as 'Mr. No-Shoulders'. Mr. No-Shoulders would spend his summer afternoons stretched out on top of a large hollow cypress log half submerged at the entrance to the spring pool. A remnant of logging days past, the log measured a good 30 feet in length, six feet across, and was hollow through and through. Every afternoon when we entered the boils, we would pay homage to Mr. No-Shoulders, thanking him for guarding our watering hole and allowing us safe passage.

On one particular summer afternoon while swimming in the spring, a small wooden skiff occupied by several strangers approached. As we watched in amazement, one of the boats occupants, a tall skinny big eared man, jumped up on the log to challenge Mr. No-Shoulders with a boat oar. In response to the assault, Mr. No-Shoulders quickly coiled in defensive posture displaying his white cotton mouth and his concave fangs. As the big eared stranger moved into position for his attack, he unexpectedly dropped the oar and frantically grasped his crotch releasing blood curdling screams. At first we thought Mr. No-Shoulder scored the first punch, but we soon realized the hollow log also served as home to a large yellow jackets nest, and 'Mr. Big Ears' pant leg was directly over a knothole, dispatching an angry swarm of wasps up the inside of his pants. Within seconds, the two strangers were engulfed and driven into the water by the swarm of angry insects, and from that day on, Mr. No-Shoulders afternoon perch was referred by the locals as the magic log.

In this episode our two strangers learned important lessons. When you encounter dangerous wildlife in its own realm, it is best to leave it alone and go your own way. Mother Nature always has a way of taking care of herself, and it is best to leave things as they are. The Magic Log, and Mr. No-Shoulders became entrenched in the lore of Happy Creek from that day on.

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