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Chapter 6 "Headed To The Carolinas"

A slight twitch of his 14-inch tail sped Super Snook along the beach. He traveled the beaches at night using the ambient light from shore to guide him, and to be safe in shallower water from attack. Bull sharks alone are no problem for Super Snook as he has wrestled with them before and always came out on top. Bull Sharks are pack sharks and have to be respected when they are in a gang. They have a naturally fired up nervous system and it does not take much to get them in the mood for a scrap. Super Snook simply avoided them by traveling the shallow spans of the beach between the breakers and the wash.

He made good time there and it allowed him to check out the nightlife as well. Music, glasses tinkling, laughing, talking, were all sounds he recognized as he made his way north along the Atlantic shoreline on a mission to intercept the Fall run of Mullet that started in the lower Carolinas at the first snap of a frost and then made its way into Keys waters by mid December each year. Super Snook was a well seasoned traveler and was headed back from his latest run in with a Peacock Bass in Venezuela. Unimpressed with the entire trip, Super Snook quickened his pace as he neared the Sebastian Inlet. Located in the middle of the State this Inlet has always been a stopping place for Super Snook as he traveled along the coast of his home state. This Inlet was also a favorite stopping place for some fast food, as the flush of the freshwater mixed with the brackish water near the Inlet was sure to hold a host of Super Snook’s favorite treat, Ladyfish.

Also known as the poor man’s tarpon, these elongated barbless bundles of energy are a perfect size snack for Super Snook”s monster maw, and after a quick trip to the Inlet he was headed North again, beach running until the first rays of orange streaked the eastern sky. He had made good time and as he entered the Indian River Lagoon area he slowed his pace and took up with a resting group of manatees he detected using his lateral line. They rumble a low growl when grouped together as a way or keeping track of each other in murkier waters. A small front had passed recently and the swing to north eastern breezes had freshened into a stiff 30 knot blow that had stained local waters. Manatees were the perfect day cover as these slow moving water whales were big enough to hide Super Snook and boats were usually careful around them and they were usually lounging in areas that were slow wake or no wake zones. Any fishing vessel could easily be out distanced when they had speed restrictions put on them like slow or no wake. Once afternoon rolled around the manatees slowly disbanded in earnest and began to graze on the lush sea grasses. The constant milling about made a low rumbling that soothed Super Snook and made him feel at ease near these groups of vegetarian behemoths.

Over near one of them, he noticed Stoney the stone crab had clamped his crusher claw on to the stiff whiskers of the lead bull manatee and was enjoying a free ride towards him into the turtle grass flat.

“Hey, Double S,” Stoney quipped, “I heard the trip South to see the Peacock Bass was less than satisfying. What seemed to be the problem down there? Was the water warmer or dirty?”

Stoney soon dropped off and ambled over towards Super Snook. He had an old busted soup bowl made of heavy ceramic over his shell he called his Flak Jacket. He said, ”Hey Double S, did you see any Bulls there or back?”

Stony had a hatred for Bull Sharks and he knew that even an old ceramic soup bowl was no protection from the jaws of the Bull Shark or their cousin the Tiger Shark who had worse table manners than the Bulls did. He oddly remembers one 9-foot Tiger regurgitating half a shopping cart under the Long Key Bridge in the Keys a few years back and thought to himself, “If a Tiger shark was dumb enough to eat a metal shopping cart, then he is certainly dumb enough to stay away from.”

Stoney was obsessed with shark knowledge and had quite a few spies working the waters to keep him updated on shark movements.

This unusual behavior came from the days Stoney lived in the limestone caves in the Bay and he grew up watching how Bull sharks behaved and the techniques they used when hunting prey. He was an expert on body language and movements of sharks and can advance tell any species from the lackadaisical but equally dangerous Nurse Shark to the man-eaters like Bulls, Tigers and cerebrally challenged Hammerhead. Remember that Nurse shark are crab fanciers and Tigers take their share of crap paté as well, so Stoney needs to keep his friends close and his sharks closer. He does just that.

Super Snook was on a mission, and as evening slipped into dusk he hit the beach again, adjusted his eyes to night mode, and swam north into slightly cooler waters. His lateral line spelled “Outside Jacksonville” that next morning, and he had made the state long trip in less than 4 days and looked forward to crossing that Georgia State line that evening. He lounged all day in the busy Port of Jacksonville and even took a small tour through the shipyard and stared at the sparkling dock pilings made of steel and glass and wondered why they had to be so high into the sky to begin with.

HUH? A splash and a flash ignited a tribal response and Super Snook closed on the area that sparked neon green inside his reaction ganglions deep inside his head. Jaws clamped around his target and closed and he felt the sting and a resistance he had come to know as ”being hooked.” Many times this has happened and he used that massive tail to quickly run his unseen opponent out of line before they had the slightest glimpse of what it was that hit their lure so hard. He heard a dimming conversation on the pier that sounded like someone thinking it must have been a shark or a tarpon to take line that way. Stoney quickly cut through the treble hooks using his crusher claw when Super Snook found him making a night nest in an abandoned washing machine. It was old habit for this duo and they exchanged a glance and little else while the entire procedure took less than a minute, start to finish.

”Goodnight, SS,” Stoney said, and settled into a corner he had cleared and cut a small opening out of the back of that old washer in case “Ole Nurse Ratchet” came calling in the night.

Georgia on his mind now as the coast became less populated and Super Snook saw more and more flounders and a few early season mullets that were more confused than early. He wasted no time in pursuit of these, as he knew the bounty was soon to come and steadied his resolve to get into Carolina Waters soon. He felt the barometric pressure start a swing lower as he hit cooler waters and in the distance heard the water rush of a thousand baits in shallow water panic mode. The Fall Mullet run was on.