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Now browsing: Hometown News > Fishing > Dan Smith

Dan Smith
This Week | Archive

A trip to Cedar Key on Florida's west coast
Rating: 2.67 / 5 (12 votes)  
Posted: 2013 May 03 - 08:54

Last week was our 39th wedding anniversary, so I took my wife Lana fishing.

What? No good?

Well, the precedent for that was set long ago. You see on our very first date back in 1973 I also took her fishing.

My girl Lana is a trooper and by now knows what to expect. In my defense, I picked the cute little fishing village of Cedar Key as our destination.

If you are not aware of the place, it is a remote island getaway over on the west coast. It still functions as a commercial fishery but the waterfront has been turned into something of a tourist trap with a half dozen honky-tonks lined up there.

The rest of the place remains a quaint piece of old Florida with the main product being clams and stone crabs.

As you motor around the tiny island the smell of seafood permeates the air. The hook and line fishing features a lot of spotted sea trout on the broad flats of the bay.

After towing our 17-foot Polar across the state behind our little RV, we launched at the municipal boat ramp.

With the wind down, I headed out a couple miles and south into the sea grass beds. Throwing the Hot Cider bait that Grandslam has named for me, Lana and I began to catch small trout. No keepers, but pretty good fun.

Eventually I switched to my favorite chartreuse shrimp tail and almost immediately a big cobia took it. After a good fight the three-foot fish came off right at the boat.

I was disappointed but grateful for the line stretch. We finished that day with a couple ladyfish before putting the Polar back onto the trailer.

Our camping spot was a great little place named Low Key Hideaway.

Because of that name, the whole while we were there the song about third-rate romance, low-rent rendezvous kept spinning in my head. You might have heard that tune by others but it was a big hit for The Amazing Rhythm Aces back in the day.

Low Key is on State Road 24 just before you get to the town of Cedar Key. That road is the only way in and the only way out. You can't get to Cedar Key by accident. Our resort is on a narrow strip of land surrounded by water and the next-door neighbor is a big seafood processing plant. That kept the odor and ambience in place.

The Hideaway features a dozen cozy motel rooms in funky, pastel colors with only four RV spots and a cool tiki bar out over the water. We loved the place.

The next morning at dawn it was clear the wind had picked up and it would not be a good day for boating. With that in mind, we walked a hundred yards or so to the Third Channel Bridge to try and wet a line. On the second cast, a big grouper took my chartreuse and right away I knew that I was overmatched. The fish had to be in the 15-pound range and, despite my constant yanking, it took me under the bridge and easily rubbed off my mono on the piling barnacles. That was about the only outcome I could really expect.

As the sun came up, big tarpon began to feed all around the bridge. Frantically, I threw everything I could think of, but could not get a hit. Still, it was really something to see. At one point, Lana and I were sitting on a seawall with our feet dangling over the side and just five feet below us, 100-pound tarpon were rolling up. That was a thrill neither of us will ever forget.

Just then I caught a 19-inch red fish.

A nice surprise, because as it turns out the red drum season there is mainly in the fall.

Soon we had three more 20-inch reds. I was reminded that on the west coast, each angler can keep two and when we returned to the camper with four reds, I did feel like an interloper. After all of these years of keeping one here locally, it was strange to keep four reds. That would be our total take for the trip, that and a bunch of good memories. If you are looking for an adventure in a beautiful setting, you could do worse than staying at The Low Key Hideaway -- third-rate romance, low-rent rendezvous.

Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to fishwdan@att.net. His book, "I Swear the Snook Drowned," is available for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793.

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