We put up with a lot to go fishing. It’s not enough to contend with inaccurate weather forecasts. Especially coming from a cyborg voice that makes Lady Gaga sound glib. Anglers deal with challenges every time they hit the water. Many originate with the animal kingdom.
Goliath grouper in the witness protection program are so thick on southern reefs it’s tough to land anything worth keeping. These Volkswagens with fins slurp down trophy filets like they’re popsicles on the 4th of July.
Same goes for Flipper. Tourons (tourist morons) have illegally fed dolphins so much that they follow boats from spot to spot like a pack of mangy dogs. Try releasing an undersized snapper and it gets the beach ball treatment before ending up as a taco.
I’ve had close encounters with sharks and once even came eyeball to eyeball with a big gator while wading a creek. My preference now is to fish INSIDE the boat, thank you very much. So I’ll put up with a lot fauna flack generally speaking, except for the buzzing, humming variety. Bugs still really bug me out.
Twice a year across the Sunshine State, we’re forced to watch an airborne stag film of sorts as “love bugs” take wing. Although these coupled insects don’t bite, engine exhaust acts as an aphrodisiac. Trucks and boats get peppered black on runs to and from the ramp. Even worse, the acid in their smashed little bodies eats away at paint.
Back when I was guiding, carpenter bees used to dive-bomb me all summer long out on the flats. I had heart palpitations while they salivated over the teak on my custom skiff. Ever try to simultaneously spot tarpon, give casting instructions, swat bees and stay atop on the poling platform in stiff sea breeze? It might be the next big act to debut on America’s Got Talent.
Mosquitoes can be pains in the butt, literally. Yellow flies extract chunks the size of Dothan whenever they bite. But the true scourge of the coastal zone is sand gnats, AKA no-see-ums, AKA teeth with wings. How can such a pip-squeak of a critter bite so hard? Bear traps don’t have that much torque.
The mild winter has triggered a hatch in plague-like proportions. It could be another sign of the Apocalypse. Whatever the reason, no-see-ums are out with a vengeance this year. Clouds of the little buggers fly around like Predator drones, searching for anything to zap. They carried a small child off the fuel dock the other day. We couldn’t do anything but swat and take cover. A couple days later I nearly lopped my ear off with a filet knife when they swooped down in attack formation at the cleaning table.
In desperation I’ve ordered a 55-gallon drum of Skin So Soft. No-see-ums apparently drown in that slick, greasy stuff. Or maybe it’s the fragrance that they find repulsive. Either way it’s worth a try. Right now my concoction of fish slime, Gulp! juice, stale beer, SPF 40 sunscreen and funky boat shoes just isn’t working.