A Paddle in to the St. Johns Wilderness

I met up with Philippe and Bill today for a paddle in to the St. Johns wilderness. I arrived a bit early and fished from the sandbar near the SR46 bridge and did not find shad. Bill and Philippe arrived and we made our way down to the mouth of the Econ where we worked both the east and west banks for some time. The weather was pushing in to the mid 80’s so I decided to wet wade the east bank. I have fished the east bank quite a bit this year and felt very comfortable working my way downstream five steps at a time, making single hand Spey casts to prevent snagging the high grass with a backcast. I found a nice hole and pulled up several panfish while wading about thigh deep, when for whatever reason, I looked back towards my banked kayak, maybe 20 yards behind me, and saw a head, a BIG head… like bigger than I am used to seeing, particularly in this area of the well traveled river. Bill was working the west bank across from me so I yelled over to him to confirm that it was an alligator and that I was not just letting my imagination get the best of me.

About that time, the gator submerged, right as Bill yelled back to confirm. Needless to say, I got my butt out of the water, got back in my yak, and never returned to the water further than knee deep the rest of the day. The potential for inserting yourself in to the food chain is a sobering reality that it fairly unique to shad fishing in Florida. I am sure there is potential for the same in shad runs all the way up to North Carolina, but I am not sure that alligator encounters are near as common as they are here in the Sunshine State. Beware of the big lizards, the weather is just getting too warm too quick.

We made our way up the Econ a few turns and Bill hooked a shad while trolling, but lost it before coming to hand. I moved upstream a bit and managed to land one. While each of us caught fish today, it was slow and it got hot quick. We called it quits early and stopped by the Jolly Gator for lunch. This will be the last trip out of CS Lee for me until next shad run.

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