Saturday, September, 15th, Justin “Derp” Johnson, my wife Shannon and I headed out to Cedar Key to try to catch a few fish. High tide was at 2:05 pm, and the Gator game was at 6 pm, so I didn’t think I would have enough time to fish both the incoming and outgoing tides and make it back to Gainesville in time to clean the boat, any fish we might catch and catch kickoff. To alleviate my dilemma, I decided to go ahead and book a room at The Cedar Inn Motel for Saturday night only.
Since high tide wasn’t until later in the day, we didn’t leave Gainesville until around 7:30 am. When we finally got gas, food and shrimp, we hit the downtown Cedar Key boat ramp. Saying it was a little rough heading out to the fishing spot would have been an understatement. It took us a little longer than it usually does because my passengers didn’t like getting beat up and wet (keep your sick jokes to yourself) by the wind and waves. Luckily after we got past the clam farms, it was fairly smooth sailing, or motoring in our case.
Fishing started out slow for us. I caught a few short reds on the outer bars while we waited for the tide to rise high enough for us to gain entry into the creeks. Short reds and all the catfish you could handle. Such is the life of live bait fishermen (or fisherwomen/fisherpeoples, yall know I keep it PC). Derp kept catching huge sharks (3-4 footers) while I keep having to shake catfish off my line.
It was a slow day until about 2:30 or so. We saw my dad, who was fishing with Mike Chasteen of Dixie Desperados fame. They were out on his aluminum boat that is equipped with a jeftoot. They hadn’t done real well up to that point, only catching one red and one speckled trout that was legal. They had thrown the cast net for mullet and we took a few off of their hands for them. This turned out to be the best thing that had happened up to that point. We saw them as we were exiting a creek and had already decided to fish the outer bars for the rest of the day.
After we loaded up on mullet and cut some fresh pieces, I chose a random outer bar that looked fishy and commenced to fish. Derp started it off with a nice redfish, around 23”.
Right after that I caught a short red that just barely missed, measuring in at a hair above 17.5”. Before I could get him back in the water Justin “Derp” Johnson, had caught another nice redfish.
Now I’m started to get a little heated. This cat barely fishes and is running circles around me. I alleviated some of the pain with a slot redfish that measured in around 19.5”.
I still wasn’t really pleased that Derp was putting it on me. I’m not a super competitive dude when I’m out on the water, I just don’t necessarily want someone catching more fish than me, you dig? Then Derp caught a really nice flounder, which I deserve some of the credit for myself. We couldn’t initially tell what he had, probably assuming it was another catfish. When I saw that it was a nice flounder, I said, “Derp, keep him in the water until I get the net situated”. Of course he does the opposite and decided to lift the flounder clean out of the water like some ice fisherman pulling a walleye out of a hole in a frozen pond. Luckily for him I got the net just in time and caught him as he fell off of his hook.
I ended up catching a keeper trout, right before we left at the last spot. I also thought I caught a huge redfish at our last spot. I wasn’t sure what it was but it was taking a good amount of drag and giving me a hell of a fight. I told Derp to get the net and as soon as I did, got a glimpse of a rather large sailcat. That pissed me off enough to call it a day.
We motored in at a nice pace. The wind had died down substantially and we got to the ramp/basin in good time. We had just enough to time for Shannon, Derp and I to take showers, change clothes and watch the Gators put in on them boys from Tennessee. We sat down in time to watch the end of Alabama shellacing Arkansas at The Pickled Pelican, where we ate dinner, then headed downstairs to The Black Dog.
I don’t remember much after the game. I ran up a tab of $80 dollars, drinking Tucher beer and smoking cigars while the Gators played. James “Nice Shoes” Stewart and his significant other Kirsten met us at the bar and we all proceeded to get righteous. Of course James had to wear his Florida State jersey and “salmon”/pink shorts to match.
After the game we all headed across the street to where a dude was playing guitar. I immediately gravitated towards the music while the rest of the crew sat on the side of the establishment. I met an old dude name Dwight, who was there with his wife 20 years his junior. I have no idea what we talked about, I just remember him smiling a lot and asking me to quit drinking his drink. The guitar man played Warren Zevon’s “Lawyers, Guns and Money”, which fired me up far more than anyone else in the establishment. It wasn’t long after that I was whisked away abruptly back to the motel.
After a nice day on the water, catching fish, drinking beer and watching a nice Gator victory, it wouldn’t make sense for me to not finish it up with a cigar and a jam session in my truck parked in the motel parking lot. I remember nothing about going to bed but I do remember waking up, and it sure wasn’t pretty. Driving to Gainesville from Cedar Key, with a massive hangover, still having to clean the boat and fish wasn’t exactly how I planned it, but I wouldn’t have it any other way either.