Shoaliepalooza 2009 Recap
Due to the wet
weather we've endured this spring, Shoaliepalooza 2009 was hastily
postponed to mid-May. Pulling into the campground at the Flint River
Outdoor Center, the dire weather forecast seemed to be playing out,
as we were immediately greeted by a heavy downpour, which had
everyone huddled under Mike's (Dances with Spiders) tent and turned
much of the camping area into a sloppy mess. The Flint, already
showing a good stain, was sure to look like chocolate milk the next
day, when the bulk of our dozen or so anglers planned on hitting the
water hard. To put a further damper on our prospects, the few GRFers
who had arrived early reported that the fishing this day had been
extremely slow (though Nielson did catch a 20-inch shoal bass!).
Uggh. Luckily my camera is
Yet once the
grills were fired up, steaks thawed, and fried chicken doled out, it
was Shoaliepalooza again! Timbo reported he had just become a
grandfather, a celebratory bottle was passed around, and pretty soon
we settled into some great campfire talk, albeit without the
campfire. This is my favorite part of Shoaliepalooza. Everyone is
looking at the contents of everyone else's tackle boxes, stories are
told and retold, and plans are made for the next day. It was
universally agreed that our new camping spot opposite the store was
far superior to the old one. If the new construction on the bridge
allows it, we'll do it there every year.
Dances with Spiders displays a few
of his camping and fishing necessities
morning dawned surprisingly clear, and our hopes were lifted when we
looked at the river and saw that it had actually cleared up a good
bit from the day before. Obviously, it didn't rain very hard
upstream the night before. My fishing partner for the weekend was
pumped. "Daddy, did you bring any candy?" Mitchell is my youngest
son (just turned 5), and this was going to be his first river float
as a fisherman. About 9 AM, Mitchell hopped into the front of my
kayak, and off we went.
Who's got two fingers and is ready
to go? This guy!!
Mitchell got pretty good at reeling
in and releasing these guys
It was pretty
obvious from the beginning that today was going to be a good day.
Most of the shoal bass were small, but they were biting topwater
plugs very willingly. Mitchell got to reel in (and release) his
first shoal bass before we joined John (SumterShoalieFan) on a rock.
John hooked up with the best fish of the day pretty soon on a big
chugger bait, and the next couple hours brought about a good number
of bites. With John hooking most of the fish, Mitchell got pretty
adept at reeling in "river bass", as he and Nielson call them. As
with every river float, there were a few notable occurrences. First,
John and Mitchell caught a turtle, which Mitchell thought was the
coolest thing ever. A little while later, I heard a loud "thud" and
turned to see John flat on his back. The fall was so bad, that I
didn't even laugh at my buddy's stumble, which is normally my first
reaction. Luckily, John was OK, but if he takes the same fall twenty
years from now, it'll be Broken Hip City.
SumterShoalieFan does battle with
the day's best fish...
...and ignores Mitchell's warning
about that slippery rock over there.
John helps Mitchell reel one in
Daddy and Mitchell teamed up on
this nice shoalie
After a quick
shore lunch, the fish turned off for a couple hours. John got the
only bite and missed a big fish that didn't get ahold of his
dead-drifted Super Fluke quite well enough. Casting from a mid-river
rock, Mitchell finally broke our drought when a nice little shoalie
decided it was hungry for a little Beetlespin. Mitchell fought the
fish like a pro and pretty soon was holding his first-ever
self-cast, self-hooked, self-landed river bass. I've already
replaced the picture of Mitchell's first steps with the one below.
My wife doesn't realize why this one's more significant, but if you
are reading this, I'll bet you do.
Mitchell's first "all-by-himself"
river bass. That's "Mr. John" in the background catching NOTHING!!
Daddy and Mitchell team up on
another nice shoal bass
And the release!
continued to hit at an acceptable rate for the rest of the day, and
I was itching to get off the water before Mitchell had a chance to
get tired and grumpy. My fears were misguided, as all he wanted to
do was cast (and swim a little, and maybe throw a few rocks). My
older kids enjoy fishing, but Mitchell might be the only one blessed
(or cursed, my wife says) with the gene that keeps some of us
casting all day long. Back at the campsite, Mitchell's persistence
paid off when another river bass (a small spotted bass) ate his
Aaron, Mitchell, John, and Matt
take a break from fishing...
...Well, some of us take a break.
Mitchell's second river bass
Hanging out at
the campsite before dinner at the catfish place, we noticed a
solitary angler wading the shoals below the campsite. Turns out that
it was none other than Mark (Shoalwalker), and we had a great time
watching Mark work the shoals with his Zara Spook, taking a few nice
bass in the process. Dinner at the Riverbend was great (as usual),
and back at camp, we were finally able to enjoy a proper campfire
and more great fellowship. Next year somebody needs to bring some
chicken livers so we can catch some catfish under the stars.
Mitchell finally gives out, about
three bites into dinner
We had a smaller
group floating the river on Sunday, and if you missed it you didn't
miss a whole lot. Despite no rain in our area, the river was higher
and and very stained. I took a nice two-pounder early on a Rapala
Skitterwalk, but the fishing was rather slow overall. Trusting
Mitchell's casting ability a little more (or rather, his ability not
to hook me!), I allowed him to cast from the boat, and cast
fruitlessly all day long. We were accompanied on the float by Mark (Shoalwalker),
Matt (Shoalietracker), and Aaron. Though the fishing never really
got hot, all the grownups had caught six or seven by day's end,
including a small shoalie that had been tagged as part of the shoal
bass study conducted by Seminole Steve and Shoalietracker. It was
pretty cool to be able to hand the tag to the guy who probably
All told, it was a
great weekend, and the weather turned out a lot better than the
forecast. The only casualty of the weekend was the General's canoe,
which nailed something in the river and sprung a good-sized leak.
Luckily Shoalieman had some duct tape so The General was able to
make it down to his truck! Duct tape: never leave home without it.
On the drive home, Mitchell made the weekend a total success when he
asked me when we could go fishing again!