Scary Encounters of the Explosive Kind

Even though I much prefer hunting down redfish on low tide, the benefit of first light activity had me launching into an area of marshy creeks as the high tide was soon to reach its peak. The fish would be back up in the grasses and would need some coaxing out. My kayak and I usually shine in the skinny waters of creeks, stalking reds as they use the mud banks to corral the finger mullet, mud minnows, crabs and shrimp. But this was my opportunity to get out on the water and that tide would eventually fall to my desired level. 

It was an easy paddle into a brisk headwind with my Coosa HD, making way through the chop to a protected cove. My trusty well-loved Skitterwalk knew the drill and began that walk-the-dog tic-tic-tic close to the flooded grass line. Almost immediately a nice red hit the lure with a very satisfying swirl and aggressive grab. So far this deeper water was working out just fine. 

I was floating in about three feet of water and up ahead was a patch of grass tops peaking out with the telltale V of finger mullet swimming close by. This point was a perfect spot for a nice red or trout waiting to ambush a meal. I threw past the grass outcropping and worked the plug back to me. Nothing. A jig and paddletail pulled through the grass yielded no hit. Needing to re-tie the nicked leader, I let the wind push me up against the grass bank. Out of the blue, a very violent and powerful explosion of an 800-1000 pound animal under the kayak rocked me to my core! Gallons of water were displaced by the extreme upheaval, raining down on me and filling the deck of the kayak. Soaking wet and in shock, I watched a massive movement travel quickly across the cove. It was the distinctive wake of a manatee and I realized I had drifted upon its resting place. We had both been startled and I would dare say that it was a heartstopping moment for both of us! It took me a few moments to gather my wits and then the awe of that amazing encounter hit me as the hard thumping in my chest slowly eased. These gentle and curious sea cows can be intimidating due to their huge mass and powerful paddletail.. They usually just cruise on by in their quest of vegetation in both tidal rivers and along the coast. But this slumbering giant was not expecting an object as long as herself to brush over her huge frame and she reacted accordingly. 

This was not the first time I had stayed upright under extreme conditions. There have been a few other instances of me accidentally drifting on top of resting manatees and alligators causing a huge startle reflex,  and each time I am comforted by the stability of the Coosa HD. It’s this confidence that allows me to stand to sight fish, pole along in inches deep grassy marshes, pull big fish out vegetation, and even enables a full length photo of a trophy bass on a scale. Stability is a huge plus to have in this really versatile kayak, and that confidence supports me in many adventures on many different waters. 

The rest of the day was a bit calmer in comparison. As the tide began to fall the reds were easier to spot back up in the skinny water marsh creeks. They were not shy about attacking the topwater lures, especially if working them close to the banks. Trout and redfish also staged themselves at the creek mouths awaiting their prey to exit. My lures were tossed in and worked back with the outflow, tricking the fish into attacking the artificial meal. I am always amazed by the feeding frenzy that utilizes the low water depth and mudbanks to up their chances at success. 

Back at the take out, the exposed shoreline was alive with herds of clicking fiddler crabs. Tiny, excitable critters that scattered with my arrival, sounding so much like a rain stick turned upside down. Quite the contrast to the huge startled manatee beneath my kayak. It’s remarkable the wonders you can experience in the wilderness, big and small. 

– Jean Wilson

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