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Ecotourism on Florida's Space Coast
Titusville Outdoors

Playing Hooky!

Eldora Flats / Orange Island
Canaveral National Seashore

by Rose Sroda

I made up my mind that I was going to play hooky from work and do some kayaking and fishing. (Warning: Do not attempt to do this as it may be hazardous to your job and can be habit forming)! After calling the boss and leaving a message that I was not feeling well, I loaded up the truck with my fishing gear and my banana kayak and headed towards Mosquito Lagoon at the Cape Canaveral Seashore Park (north end) before the sun even began to rise. I left a message with my new 'yak buddy, Sandy, stating that I was playing hooky and would meet up with her..
We drove to Eldora (parking lot #7) and launched our kayaks at the canoe launch path just after the sun came up

The wind was calm and the water was glassy. (For a change, it was not raining). A peaceful feeling came over me with each stroke of the paddle as I left the everyday population and pressures of life further behind. I just knew that it was going to be a great day! As we paddled out, the Eldora House was to our left along with a small fishing pier. (Stop in there sometime and see the old pictures of the area on display. There is also a small hiking trail next to the house. Be sure to wear mosquito repellent). To the right of us, you could see Turtle Mound.

The fish were jumping out of the water as we paddled towards Orange Island. (Camping is permitted there with a permit).

We paddled around the spoil islands, lined with oyster shells and mangroves and watched as the Fiddler crabs scurried away from us. There were dolphins swimming nearby chasing schools of mullet. Nearing Orange Island, we drifted towards a salt marsh and threw in our lines baited with live shrimp. Within seconds, I was reeling in a nice sized trout. What a beauty!

After making Sandy take a picture of me and my prized catch, I released him. She drifted away and landed a nice sized trout (was it the same one???) and it ended up jumping off the hook as she brought it up to her kayak. The day just kept getting better! After catching some little trouts and a few catfish, I saw Sandy's pole bent to the point of breaking. I paddled towards her to see what she hooked. Well, it was the biggest darn catfish that I ever saw come from the lagoon. (Sorry, no picture)! It turns out that it was a Gaftopsail Catfish. The noticeable detail was its long streaming dorsal fin. This catfish appeared to have had a breakfast of some white seedless grapes (from Publix?) prior to hitting on the shrimp. Sandy tells me later that she's hungry ( and a vegetarian) and that we've should've taken the grapes before releasing it!!!

The current did not allow us to stay in one spot and we were constantly drifting and paddling back to our "spot". Something was playing with my line and I snagged it, only to have the fish jump straight out of the water and dive back down, trying to break free. He put up a good fuss and shot out in the air a couple of times before I reeled him in. It ended up being a Ladyfish and acts like a miniature Tarpon. That was cool!

Sandy ended up catching some little trouts and a couple more catfish. (Her cast was getting better!!!) We were both keeping count...I was leading 12 to 7. Not bad for a fine day away from the office!!! If only my boss knew what I was doing (heh heh)!!! All I had to worry about was coming back to work looking a little tanned!!!

We were running out of live shrimp and the clouds were starting to look pretty dark coming from the west, so we started heading back to the Eldora launch area where we saw lots of splashing and activity going on. After getting closer, we saw that they were manatees frolicking around. They were everywhere! After hearing thunder, Sandy paddled back to the shore (we need to get wooden paddles). I heard a "pfleeesh", so I turned around and there was a baby manatee's nose above the surface of the water. He was following me! I stopped paddling and let the 'yak drift. Surrounding me were "swirling waters" or "miniature whirlpools" created by manatees swimming around and under my kayak. What a rush!

The clouds were getting pretty bad looking so we decided to head to the beach house where Sandy and her family were staying. It still hadn't stormed so we dragged my sit-on-top kayak onto the beach so I could paddle in the surf. It was the first time I ever did that, and of course, the wave knocked me off the kayak while trying to paddle out. Starting over, I got past the first set of waves and jumped in and paddled out. After getting out a ways, I caught a wave and surfed it all the way back. That was awesome! This day just couldn't get any better!!!! It still hadn't stormed and appeared to clear up some, so we decided to drive over and paddle the Mosquito Lagoon near Shipyard Island and head towards Cedar Island. Having no more shrimp, I cast out a golden spoon lure while we paddled to the north. Wouldn't you know, a storm quickly came in from the West.

We ended up paddling to JB's to see if the storm would blow over (and I didn't catch anything). The dolphins were swimming around and putting on a display while we sat on the dock and waited it out. The storm ended up blowing over and we headed back to the boat ramp across from Shipyard Island. The day was too short and ending, and the reality of having to go back to work in the morning was starting to overcome me.

I look forward to my next "hooky day"!!!! Can you hear it??? "Sandy............Rose".

Eldora is calling us!!!!

Directions: take either US-1 or I-95 to SR-44 (exit 84 from I-95) in New Smyrna Beach and go east until you come to SR-A1A and go south until you reach Cape Canaveral Seashore.


Editor's note; If you suddenly find yourself too "sick to go to work", or are having problems with your vision, (ie, can't see going in to work,) the author highly recommends the pharmacy at JB's Fish Camp.

EMAIL; Rose Sroda

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