According to the dictionary, Panacea is a solution or remedy for all known ills. For me, a recent visit to Panacea, Florida was just that.

Florida’s “Forgotten Coast,” has been quite unforgettable. From the quiet, calm beauty to the quaint charm of the small town, Panacea was a welcome respite to my otherwise hectic lifestyle.

I don’t normally travel much during the school year. As a school administrator, it’s sometimes hard to get away. But, thanks to a three day weekend, and the overwhelming urge to see some new scenery, my husband James and I loaded up our truck and headed south. We had endured days of rain in Tennessee, along with cold temperatures, and dreary days. We needed to see the sun, so off we went.

Florida did not disappoint temperature wise. We left the 30 degree highs in TN for a more comfortable 70+ degrees. I am pretty sure I felt my bones thaw out once we crossed the Florida state line.

James and I spent our first night in Tallahassee, where we checked in to a newer Hampton Inn. We were both starved after a day full of driving, so what did we do? We hit up one of our favorite fast food places. Popeyes. If you haven’t tried that juicy, spicy deliciousness, don’t knock it. The way I see it, what’s life without risk and a little bit of fried chicken.

On the second day in Florida, James and I met up with a fellow named Robert Baker, from The Wilderness Way in Crawfordville, FL. Robert has an awesome shop that has everything you need for a successful day on the water. If you find yourself in the area, definitely make a stop by The Wilderness Way. Robert and his crew will get you outfitted for whatever type of kayaking adventure you have in mind.

After James and I took a tour of the shop, we all headed off to Panacea.

James and I followed Robert to the salt marsh. Having never kayaked in the marsh before, we were excited and anxious to get the day started. We helped Robert unload his truck and we prepped our kayaks and gear on the bank. The smell of the salt air, the fog hanging over the water combined with the earthy smell of the marsh set the atmosphere for the days adventure. I was in awe of the natural beauty all around us.

James and I hopped in our kayaks and Robert pushed us off the bank. The Jackson Kayak Mayfly I had chosen to paddle slid gracefully into the water. James was paddling a Jackson Liska, a kayak that he already owned back home and was confident paddling. Having never been on the salt marsh, and not really knowing what to expect, I wanted a kayak that was super stable, so the Jackson Mayfly was the right choice for me.

The Mayfly paddled famously and was easy to maneuver in the flat water of the marsh. I took a few minutes and acclimated myself to my new surroundings. I was able to see Redfish tailing out in front of us as we all made our way through the water. It was an incredible sight for sure.

James and I both caught Sea Trout. We were impressed with the feistiness of the fish and the fight they put up. The Sea Trout were considerably larger than the Rainbow Trout we typically catch at home in Tennessee.

Sea Trout also have a pair of teeth. Two front ones to be exact. James was careful to not put his fingers in the mouth of the Sea Trout, and he released the fish after a quick picture.

Our guide, Robert, caught Sea Trout and Redfish. The Reds I sought on this trip definitely eluded me, but being able to see a Redfish for the first time in person was awesome!

Even though I was not able to check off the Redfish from my list of fish I want to catch, James and I had an incredible time fishing the beautiful “Forgotten Coast” of Florida.

Until next time, we will be looking forward to going back and paddling the marsh once more.

Take a Bite

Recently, I had the pleasure of testing out the new Jackson Kayak Bite. I had been anxiously awaiting this kayak since I first heard about its development last fall.

At 35″ wide and a touch under 12′, the Bite offers up an incredibly stable platform. The open deck allows for easy customization of the kayak to suit your needs. It’s also spacious enough to take your dog with you. Since the Bite has a weight capacity of 400 lbs., I can easily take my Labrador Retriever out with me on a leisurely paddle.

Weighing in right at 70 lbs., the Bite is not difficult to physically manage or get to wherever you are going to launch. It’s light weight makes it easy to load and unload onto a truck, cartop, or trailer.

The Bite is just so stable. It’s easy to stand in while making your way down the river. Standing and casting is easily accomplished in the Bite.

Jackson didn’t skimp on features that make the Bite a solid fishing kayak. Not only is it spacious, stable, and easy to maneuver, but it also has the basic necessities most kayak anglers want. The flush mount rod holders are incredibly handy. I don’t always use my fishing crate when I kayak, especially if I am only going on a short trip. Jackson also added GearTrac to the forward area of the kayak which will allow paddlers to mount a variety of accessories from depth finders to cup holders.

Jackson also makes it easy for rods to be managed on the open deck. The slots toward the bow allow for rods to remain stabilized while you are fishing and making your way through moving water.

I found the Bite to be really quite comfortable. The new seat in the Bite is plenty supportive for a day on the water, and the ability to trim the seat to fit your paddling environment makes this kayak a true contender. Adjustable foot pegs also aid in making paddling more comfortable and more stable.

I was more than impressed with the new Jackson Kayak Bite during my test paddle, and I definitely plan to add one to my garage this season. It’s a really well-rounded and thoughtfully developed kayak. Oh, and did I mention it’s only $799?

Go ahead, take a Bite!

It Takes Two

“Let’s get kayaks,” I exclaimed to my husband James as we both sat staring at a man on a bright yellow kayak at Rock Island State Park near McMinnville, Tennessee. 

My husband had never fished from a kayak. He had spent his life coaching football and being a high school principal. His fishing days had been minimal over the early stages of his career, but it was time for some built-in time for relaxation. What better way to do it than on a kayak?

As he usually does, my husband humored me on my idea of buying kayaks, and soon after the day of Kayak admiration and envy at Rock Island, we set about selecting a pair of kayaks for ourselves. We were compete rookies. We could have given new meaning to the term “newb.” We knew very little about kayaking, but as we are both educators in our careers, felt we were up to the task of learning. 

Five years have now passed and James and I have certainly learned the ins and outs of kayak fishing, mostly by trial and error. We have also learned to mesh our fishing styles so we work as a true team on the water. And of course, there is always competition between us. Not from the typical male vs. female paradigm, but from the “who did their research on bait presentation, patterns, and weather fronts,” this week.

Fishing with my husband has brought an added dimension to our marriage. We both have kayak fishing as a hobby to share between us. It’s been an amazing opportunity for us to explore and test limits and personal comfort zones.

Before kayak fishing, I had a tremendous fear of snakes. Since we kayak in the snakes natural habit, I had to overcome my fear of the oftentimes vilified creature. My husband helped me learn how to identify a poisonous snake vs a non-poisonous variety. This information came in handy the day that I had a Northern Water Snake curiously approach my kayak. I was petrified! As the snake came closer, I kept my trusty Bending Branches Angler Pro in hand, just in case I had to paddle away quickly and make a fast escape. The closer the snake got to me, the easier it was to Identify it as non-poisonous.

Now, when my husband and I fish together, he takes the “lead” role as the official snake scout, and I’m good with paddling just slightly behind him; at least until I am officially less jumpy when I see a snake.