If there are Rivers in Hell

If there are rivers in Hell, this is what they are like. Just an endless line of airboats buzzing you ten feet from shore as you fruitlessly cast in to pools loaded with fish… with fish literally eating minnows in a foot of water at your feet, and you catch nothing, not one single fish, for all of eternity. THIS is the penance due to a sinful fly fisherman, full of lies about the size and numbers of fish he caught, coveting your neighbor’s expensive Sage flyrod, skipping church to fish on a Sunday, and taking the LORD’s name in vain when that trophy fish breaks off before you touch the leader. You better get right with GOD while you still have the chance!

Alright, between the fire and brimstone above and the Facebook group, I have about beaten this one to death, but have to still write it down for posterity.

Last weekend by brother drove down from Jacksonville to do some shad fishing with me. The plan was to put in at Tosohatchee and then motor down to 7 Palms (and beyond.) That plan came to an immediate and noisy end, the moment we reached the river as a pack of about 15-20 airboats went by. Shortly after we took the canoe off the Jeep, another 5-10 passed by. Now it is certainly not unusual to see airboats in this area, but I would say 5-10 in any given Saturday would be “typical.” With around 30 having already passed us, I had absolutely no intention of taking the canoe downstream in alligator infested water to 7 Palms.

Now I have experienced something like this years ago, but down river. There was a big airboat meetup at Loughlan Lake and an early line of traffic left CS Lee, making quite a racket. Frankly, had my brother not driven all the way down to fish with me, I probably would not have even taken the boat off the racks, and just went home.

After a 3rd group of airboats passed, I decided to do a Facebook check-in to figure out what the heck was going on. I found out there was an airboat race going on at Paw Paw Mound. Intent on showing my brother a good time, I decided we would just make the quick run upstream to fish the turns there, figuring the worst of the traffic had likely already passed. Yea right!

We arrived at the turn and found fish feeding aggressively, pushing minnows in to the shallows. What proceeded from there was just absolute insanity, airboat after airboat after airboat. Did they use the wider/ deeper east channel? No! What fun would that be? Its much more fun to choose the narrow west channel where you can clearly see two people fishing.

After easily another 15-20 airboats passed, we decided we had had enough and moved to the east channel, where we wouldn’t get buzzed every couple of minutes right? Guess what? It didn’t work! Just about every airboat still coming used the east channel now. My brother hypothesized that airboat operators just naturally follow the path where people are, almost instinctually, without even thinking, when they are not real sure where they are going. I think they just like an audience.

For what it was worth, the east channel was loaded with fish too, but getting fish to eat a fly with two solid hours of airboat traffic coming one way, and two solid hours of them coming back the other way… well all I can say is, it was like fishing at a monster truck rally! We decided to have some lunch, drink some beer, and watch the insanity ensue.

After eventually growing tired of the lunacy, we donned our PFD’s and braved the wake to make the run back to the launch. Thankfully we only had to endure 3 sets of airboat wake before landing, and another dozen or so, sometimes just 5-10 feet away from us, while unloading the boat.

We estimate we saw upwards of 200 airboats! I have since signed up for the Lake County and Seminole County Airboat groups so I can see their posts and hopefully never be on the water again when they are racing!

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