Kissing a Toad

Maybe not exactly, but I did have quite the encounter with a Toad Fish this past fall while visiting Jekyll Island, Georgia.

James and I decided to visit the Jekyll Island Fishing Center as it has become one of our favorite places on the island just to have some fun and mingle with some of the locals.

It was a windy day, so breezy in fact that James’ favorite hat, a Shelta hat in a nice camo pattern, blew off his head and into the Atlantic Ocean never to be seen again. We were on the cusp of Hurricane Michael making landfall in Florida, so the wind was really kicking up.

As James watched his hat drift out to sea, I felt a little tug on the end of my line. I assumed it was just the weight of my rig I was throwing on my rented fishing rod and reel combo. I reeled my line in and continued to feel the line twitch beneath my hands. Looking down from the pier, I saw what I first thought was a Flounder. I wasn’t wearing my bifocals, so I was going on color alone.

When the fish came closer to me on the pier, I realized it was definitely not a Flounder. It wasn’t a Sheepshead either. I was out of ideas. I definitely knew I was not about to touch the little beast.

I handed my line to my husband and said, “Unhook it.”

He looked at me with a little skepticism. I mean, the poor guy had just lost his lucky hat and now he had to deal with unhooking one of the most freakishly sad looking fish we had ever laid eyes on.

My husband, being mindful of the fact that this fish was sporting a set of pointy teeth, set about the task of removing the hook ever so delicately. He was careful to not allow the fish to fin him with its spiny little protrusions which it had down its back.

Soon enough, the fish was back in the salty water and back to whatever oyster bed it came off.

Being the curious type, I walked to the little bait shop at the pier and showed the workers a picture of our catch. “That’s a Toad Fish,” exclaimed one of the ladies behind the counter. “Yeah! That’s a Mother in Law fish,” said the other lady standing near the ice cream counter. “I hope you all didn’t touch it! They can be fatal! They carry bacteria on them,” said the lady who told me my beautiful fish was called a Toad. The ladies explained if you eat the Toad Fish, you could die. I smiled, assured her we let the fish go, and walked briskly out to the restroom where I proceeded to scrub up as though I were about to perform an intricate operation.

After a short walk back to the pier, I told James he needed to wash his hands and make sure he did not put his hands in his mouth. I explained about our Toad Fish possibly being the kiss of death. James washed up and we called it a day.

Turns out, the Toad Fish is pretty well known to the locals of Coastal Georgia. It’s MO is to steal your bait. It is insanely fast moving, which makes it a great candidate to pick your hook clean. What did my Toad Fish like to eat? Shrimp. Not even boiled, fried, grilled, or sautéed, just plain ole’ raw shrimp. Finicky is not a word to describe the Toad Fish.

Next time we pier fish, we plan to carry a pair of gloves. We hope we don’t run into another Toad Fish, but if we do, we will be prepared. And no, it won’t be getting any kisses.

Panfish and the Trout Slayer

Yeah. So, that’s my husband’s thumb pointed right at the camera. Hand model he is not, but he makes a pretty good fish holder while I try to take quick photographs of my tiniest catches before we release them. It’s a true team effort.

This fall, when water levels were higher than usual and we could not get out on the kayaks, we decided to try our hand (no pun intended) at bank fishing.

We decided to go to one of our favorite bank fishing spots, Rock Island State Park. Not only did we get to enjoy beautiful scenery, but we also managed to catch a variety of small and uniquely colored fish.

In mid-summer, James and I had taken a trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee where we visited a small outfitter near the Little Pigeon River. We were introduced to something called a Trout Slayer. It is made by Trout Magnet, and is a small, naturally colored plastic bait paired with a very tiny hook.

We were initially told that Smallmouth Bass really like the Trout Slayer, but I have since discovered pan fish find this little bait irresistible.

I have been using 4 lb SOS line on an ultralight spinning rod and tossing the Trout Slayer without a float. Trout Magnet suggests you use a float, but my custom made rod has more than enough sensitivity so I can feel each nibble, no mater how tiny the fish.

Rock PerchRock Perch

One of my most interesting catches while using the Trout Slayer was this Rock Perch. I was not sure what it was at first, I actually thought I had caught a small stick when I first pulled the line up out of the water. To be so tiny, this little guy really went after the Trout Slayer.

Not only do the Rock Perch enjoy the little Trout Slayer, but so do it’s aquatic friends.

Me holding a small Rock Bass

All in all, bank fishing at Rock Island State Park is always fun and something we both look forward to doing when we have the chance.

An Awesome End to 2018

2018 started out on a great note. Spring fishing began early in February with some fabulous Trout fishing in rural middle Tennessee.

I was hopeful the great start of the year would signal a stellar season on the water. The spring quickly transitioned to summer and then suddenly, I found myself recouping from a leg laceration that I suffered in a freak accident. My shin had been split to the bone (I could literally see the white)! I was told I would be off the water for a minimum of six weeks! Six weeks!

My wound was closed with something called Dermabond. I’m sure Dermabond is less painful than stitches, but I was left with a longer healing time and some complications. I received a Tetanus shot as my laceration came from rusty metal (I mean, go big or go home, right) and I also had to take antibiotics for seven days not once, but twice! I would show you all my leg injury, but let’s just say some things are better left to the imagination! So instead of the blood and gore, here’s a pic of something equally gross. Liquid Bactrim!

My leg injury didn’t come at a very opportune time. It was summer and fishing season was in full-swing. Not to be totally outdone, I finally convinced my husband to take me out on our skiff. He agreed as long as I kept waterproof bandages on my leg and wore a neoprene boot. Talk about being hot! Nothing like wearing a neoprene boot in 98 degree weather. The positive in it all, was I had some success on the skiff. I landed a variety of smallies using mostly the Trout Slayer or the Trout Magnet on my Ultralight rod. It was enough to hold me over until my leg healed.

In September, I finally made my way back into my kayak that I had seldom had the chance to use since I had purchased it. And what a shame it was to have it setting on its perch in my garage. Prior to my accident, I had purchased a custom color Jackson Kayak Coosa HD.

I had my eye on a Coosa HD for several months when by chance, I got a message from a local dealer who had gotten this particular kayak on a recent trip to the Jackson factory. I was over the moon when I saw the “Pink Acid” layup. I knew I had to have it!

My husband, who has always supported my love of the outdoors, purchased a new set of Bending Branches Angler Pro paddles for me in Radiant to match my kayak. I was so excited!

The Coosa HD has by far been one of the most stable kayaks I have personally ever owned (and that’s been quite a few, maybe a few too many if you ask my husband). I love the ability to trim the seat to match my paddling needs on the Coosa HD. Push the seat back and get ready to handle some rapids. Move the seat forward and paddle at your own pace on the flats. The Coosa HD is so incredibly well rounded, in that it handles any situation famously! The Coosa HD also allows me to carry my photography gear and my fishing necessities and never be left wishing I had more space. I use a Jackson JKrate Low and it fits perfectly in the rear tankwell. The Coosa HD also has a nice center hatch that is perfect to mount a depth finder or just to carry some gear.

In late October I was able to land one of my largest fish to date while using my Coosa HD. I hooked a 22″ Largemouth Bass. It was an awesome way to close out a fairly rocky fishing season.

But, my biggest accomplishment came on December 21, 2018 when I opened my email and saw a message from Bending Branches. It was an invitation to serve as a Regional Ambassador for Bending Branches for the 2019 season. I was so ecstatic I started jumping up and down in the middle of my kitchen when I read the email!

When I first started kayak fishing five years ago, the first set of paddles I purchased was a set of $50 Bending Branches Whisper paddles. I cut my teeth on those paddles and learned how to control a kayak and how to handle mild rapids. I eventually worked my way up to the Angler Pro in chartreuse which I used for three seasons. I put many miles on that first set of Angler Pro paddles and they never once cracked or left me stranded. I still have them and still use them when I am teaching someone to fish from a kayak.

Having a lightweight paddle is so important in that it helps you better control all of the things a kayak angler has to manage when landing a fish. Unlike in a boat, a kayak angler must juggle the paddle, rod, and usually a net all in a matter of seconds.

Despite a slow start to my season, I have really been blessed over the course of this past year. I am so thankful and humbled to be able to participate in this sport. I have met some amazing people along the way.

I hope everyone has a blessed 2019. See you on the river!