On Sept. 5, while fishing from my kayak, I discovered a full-grown manatee that had died near the Tomoka Basin.
I found the deceased sea cow just west of Goat Island (the longest spoil island). It was in very shallow water in an area my old fishing buddy Jack Thomas named redfish cove many years ago. Apparently it had died someplace else and drifted there on a high tide. After notifying the state, I worked with them to coordinate the removal at the optimum tide. There was no visible signs of trauma and I hope to learn what happed to it after the state does the necropsy.
On that same day, there were lots of tarpon feeding in the wide bay between the Halifax River and the state park. Once I paddled the Green Peanut into casting range, I dropped my jig right into a school of big tarpon. As soon as it hit the water, a fish picked it up and took it about 10 feet before dropping it. Before the jig could settle to the bottom another fish had it and went 10 feet and dropped it. Still on the same cast another fish picked up my bait and was hooked. This was strange behavior for tarpon and it wasn't long until I knew I had a big ole sail catfish. The sail cat is one of the only whiskered fish that will hit a lure. The fight was pretty good fun and the catfish was over two pounds.
Eventually I did get a tarpon to hit, but the outcome was predictable. The fish jumped one way, the MirrOlure went the other way and it was all over in seconds.
A few days later I caught a 24-inch snook on an open water flat.
On that day nothing had been hitting, so I had gone to an offset spinner rigged with a Lite Beer shrimp tail on a 1/8-ounce jig head.
My thinking was that on a slow day, the reflection of the little spinner would attract some action. It did! The snook nailed it and did its thing with two nice jumps before I released it alongside the Peanut. Remember snook are closed here. The opening that has just occurred was for the west coast of the state only. As always, I hope you will release all snook no matter the legality. Our snook population is still way down after the cold winter they endured three years ago.
On Sept. 7, I served as a judge at the first Reel in the Fun kids fishing tournament in Ormond Beach.
That turned out to be a lot of fun as more than 30 kids (accompanied by an adult) showed up to fish beneath the Granada Bridge. The tournament was hosted by Ormond Beach Leisure Services Department with volunteers from Wyotech, the motorcycle and marine mechanics school, assisting. My job as judge was to weigh and name the fish the children caught. It wasn't hard to tell when a fish came up for the squeals were an immediate giveaway. In the 4, 5 and 6-year-old class, little Abigail Fulghum took first with her 11-ounce sheepshead. In the 7, 8, and 9-year-old bracket, Jacob Williams caught a 16-ounce whiting and in the 10, 11 and 12- year-olds, Brandon Swartz had a nice 11-ounce mangrove snapper. Tiny Leah Loncala had the most fish with a dozen. Most of the other kids caught a menagerie of pinfish, small mangos and puffers. Nice awards were presented for first, second and third in all classes.
The weather was perfect and everyone had a great time. Mayor Ed Kelley was on hand to try his luck and City Commissioner Troy Kent and his wife brought their son, Wyatt. Congratulations to the city and especially to Robert Carolin, Mike Demchak, Stephan Sibley and Sonja Johnson for a great event.
Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. His book, "I Swear the Snook Drowned," is available for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793.