June 25th, 2007

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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Fly-In Fishing
By Bob Bolton (Bobinmich)

Most of us think of fly-in fishing as using a plane to access waters not reachable by road. When I was at my other home waters in Naples, Florida last week, I witnessed how the pro's do it. By pro's, I mean creatures that depend on fishing for their very existence.

Behind my Florida house is one of those finger lakes that you see a lot of in Florida. In this community, they scooped out a couple of hundred acres of swamp in the shape of a bunch of fingers and built houses around them. Each finger is maybe a quarter mile long and 50 yards wide. Within a year or so they become filled with all manner of fish, both natural and planted, from sunfish to bass to an occasional gater. I do most of my fishing on the beach or from a flats boat in the mangroves south of Marco Island. I never gave the lake behind me a second thought.

Last Sunday, I was sitting on the lanai when suddenly a bunch of very large black and white water birds starting landing. Now we are use to an occasional great white egret or blue heron wading along the shore, but not the flock that was landing. In just a few minutes there were nearly a hundred of them. I checked my bird book and found they were wood storks. The book said they were a large white wading bird that is on the endangered list in Florida. I had to agree with the large part. They were about the size of a great blue heron but were much stockier. The endangered part was a little bit of a stretch for me because there were a hundred of them staring me in the face.

So there they were, standing around the lake doing nothing. Before you knew it they were joined by eight or ten great white egrets and as many great blue herons. Just standing there. I thought maybe there was some sort of convention of wading birds or something.

Then it happened. Coming in low, out of the sun, a flock or cormorants descended into attack. Straight into the lake they went at full speed, hitting like a hail of bullets. Within 30 seconds, the placid little lake was turned into a boiling caldron. Birds diving and coming up with twelve inch fish, swallowing them in one gulp, and heading back down for another. I could not believe there were that many fish in this little lake.

Bad day to be a fish. But it was not over. The hapless critters tried to flee to the shallows next to the shore. Big mistake. The storks started grabbing them up like cotton candy. But a stork is not use to such large fare. It took the storks a while to jiggle the fish around and work it down. Sort of like a bull snake swallowing a rabbit. All the time they were trying to swallow the fish, they were vulnerable to the guy next door who didn't have a fish. Numerous fights broke out. But everyone seemed to get something.

But the slaughter was not over. Just when things seemed to be winding down, nature sent in the dive bombers. For the survivors, just when they thought it may be safe, they were snatched from deep water by a creature that only touched the water with his feet. They would never seen him coming.

Well, so much for catch and release. But you know that this must happen somewhere in these lakes on a regular basis. And still there are enough left to propagate the species because there are still fish all through them. And they are not small. Here is one of the smaller ones that one of the critters dropped. I am not really sure whether it is a warmouth or a spotted sunfish. The mouth is too small for a warmouth bass and the size is too big (almost 12 inches) for a spotted sunfish. I will check with Florida DNR for identification. But I tied some small flies and streamers and I will try out that lake some night. Night fishing down here can be interesting because some six foot gaters have wandered in here on occasion.

But the really interesting things are, how did the storks know the fish were going to school there, how did the cormorants know know it too, and did the storks tip off the cormorants by standing round? And who told the eagles? Did any of the birds play off the actions of the others or was it the fish that attracted them all independently? ~ Bob Bolton (Bobinmich)

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