I learned something over this last weekend. In fact, several things. My wife and I invited some friends to go fishing with us. It was a beautiful Florida day for it has turned more summer than spring here. I know many of my readers might wince at that since the northern US continues to see colder than normal temps. Try visualizing mid-80s, a moderate breeze, clear turquoise waters, palms swaying and white beach sands. Ahhhhhhh!
We wanted our friends to have a day of fun. J and I have enjoyed listening to our guest play Bluegrass on his banjo over the years and we wanted to “pay it back.” Mr. Keith and his beautiful, intelligent wife, Darlene, produce bluegrass festivals and Keith leads his own band. In my opinion he’s Florida’s Earl Scruggs.
Our friends, live inland, are busy folks, and don’t often get a chance to enjoy the coast. The fishing wasn’t great, but it was good enough so that by noon we’d put five nice sea trout in the cooler. They were 18 to 20 inches long. Though supper was taken care of, we needed lunch. And, we needed a rest from throwing back 14 inchers (one inch under the limit) so we headed to a little piece of paradise nestled in SW Florida.
Cabbage Key is that little piece of paradise. Located in Pine Island Sound near Fort Myers, Sanibel and Captiva, it’s a resort and restaurant that’s only accessible by boat. When you step off the vessel into its tropical splendor, you’re transported back in time to a slower life style…virtually, you feel like an extra in a Bogart-Becall movie. Stress evaporates. The slow moving ceiling fans, trophy fish hanging on the walls…walls that are papered with dollar bills… and the coconut palms, royal palms and banyon trees form picture frames for the blue-green waters surrounding the island— Well, the scene leaves the word paradise lacking.
While we were eating lunch, I was to learn that even if you are born in a place, think you know it and its critters, you can always learn something. I returned to the boat before the others to straighten up a bit. A man sitting in the craft next to mine smiled and said, “I think you’re gonna have to start over on your fishin’.” He pointed to the floor of my boat. “A bunch of otters done crawled in and got your fish outta the cooler.” Sure enough, all five trout were either gone completely or lie on the fiberglass, half masticated from the center out.
I know better than to leave anything in a boat after dark in Florida for it’s sure to have a visit from raccoons on an eat, destroy and poop mission. But in mid-day light, with fifty folks milling around? No way! I thought I had no worries. Wrong. Otters are a “wild” animal, unthinking critters, right. Guess what? They learn very quickly where the food comes from when a few well-meaning, misguided folks pull a fish out of the Coleman Cooler.
While I sat on the boat cleaning blood and guts from the floor, I glanced at the transom. One of the culprits had his paws on the transom’s top as he peered at me, trying to decide if I’d object to him finishing his meal. I couldn’t be upset with the cute little rascals. There were five of them, mom, dad and three pups, swimming around the boat. I wish I’d had a camera. As bad as I wanted to, I fought the urge to simply toss the carcasses over the side. In the long term it wouldn’t be fair to the otters. Story shortened…we more than replenished the cooler with trout and mackerel…with ones as large and larger than those we’d caught in the morning.
Odds & Ends:
I enjoyed meeting so many of my readers at the ABC Authors Market in Punta Gorda last Saturday. Thanks for stopping by. I’ll be at the Sister Cities convention in Sarasota this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. (May 2-4) It’s held at the Helmsley Sandcastle Resort on the beach. I’ll have copies of my new novel Blue Water, Red Blood that is released tomorrow! If you’re in the area, stop and see me. I’ll be in the Florida Author’s Showcase in the main lobby near the registration desk.