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Chapter 8 "Meet and Greet"

Super Snook and Stoney have been traveling all day, moving ever southward. This water is just too cold to be a comfortable environment. Not only is he cold, but also his one inch thick lateral line is reacting to disturbances in the water caused by something ahead. There is an unusually large disturbance to his left and it is stirring up the water close to the bottom. Looks like it’s time for some re-con. SS breaks right, like a wide receiver running a post pattern in football, but instead of racing forward, he sweeps around sharply, coming up in front of this mystery creature up tide where he can get a clean look at it All Super Snook can see now is a dark cloud of silt, so he moves up and over the most dense part of the mudstorm for a closer look.

“Ah, Ha he laughs out loud, “A Spotted Eagle Ray”, check it out Stoney”

“Find out what his name is, Super.” Stoney replied.

“Hey there, what’s your name Mr. Eagle Ray? Super Snook is naturally gregarious by nature, although he always keeps an edge of suspicion “You can call me Ray.” The big booming voice replied.

“Hey Ray, where you headin`” asks Super Snook.

“South, I’m going to meet up with a bunch of my kin in a few days, when the water warms up some, what’s your name linesider and do you know you have a Stone Crab on your back?”

“I’m Super Snook, the biggest, baddest snook there is. I’ve been hooked by the best, and have escaped the rest. I’ve traveled the Atlantic Coast, and been farther South than most, I’m heading south for warmer digs”.

“Nice ta meetcha Super, I’ve heard the stories, I thought you were just a legend?” “You hungry? Watch this!”

Suddenly, with half a flap Ray bolts forward sweeping his huge wings gracefully, stirring up the rich muddy bottom, exposing a banquet of crustaceans for Super’s snacking pleasure. Somewhat satisfied now, the group continue their southward trek.

SS liked hanging out in the Carolinas a while, but now that water temperatures were starting to slide, it was time to head towards the Tropics. There are snow birds, why not snow fish? Besides the cooling waters, it was time to look for some cleaner water as well. It’s just too much work relying only on your lateral line and sense of smell all the time. What a hassle you just can’t stretch your fins out and swim.” “You’re always on the lookout for predators and obstacles in the zero-vis, coffee-colored water.” “A snook never knows where the next challenge to his existence may come from, above, below, from or some unknown creature hell-bent to end it all right there, it’s a fish-eat-fish world, always has been too, since the beginning.”

For the time being it was easy cruising towards the border. Super Snook was well guarded by his entourage of finny friends, the tarpon, some scattered bull reds, and an assortment of small snappers, and now, the most recent addition to the group, a spotted eagle ray, named Ray. Ray was very helpful in stirring up bunches of snacks off the bottom, and Super was more than content to cruise lazily behind the great Ray, all the while feasting on a nice variety of crustaceans. Even Stoney, still tightly clamped to SS`s dorsal fin, was able to snack on a mud storm of delicious detritus.

Super detected a change in their direction of travel, and shouted up ahead to the Ole lady, “Yo, Ole Lady, where we heading`?”

“Inshore, Double S…we got to start looking for dinner and a place to spend the night, unless you want to push on, I don’t care, either way”, SS replied “I’m good with stopping”, said SS, already bored with the monotonous unremarkable scenery. The seeming endless miles of featureless white sandy beaches off the Georgia coast were all starting to look the same. Thankfully, the bottom was beginning to change as they pushed inshore and towards a small cut between some barrier islands. Super Snook could definitely sense a change in the salinity of the water, and he pushed his nose forward to get more of this sensation. Stoney, too, was enjoying a break from the high salinity waters off the coastal beaches. He felt like he was back in the waters off Chokoloskee again, where he used to live in a well dug out hole in the mud bottom. But now he was a world traveler, and he had to keep up appearances as the “greatest snook in the world’s” right-clawed crab. It was not easy keeping up with a legend, but Stoney was doing fine. As Stoney was lost in his thoughts of world travel, he was almost thrown off of SS`s back. He reached down with his slender, sharp ripping claw, grabbed a fin ray and steadied himself as his” sea-horse” came to a sudden stop.

“What the..”, Stoney exclaimed.

“It’s a..”, Super said.

“It is as big as a……cow!” screamed Stoney, in a muffled underwater way.

“It’s like a sea-going cow……like a sea cow….. Sea cow?” said Super Snook.

“It’s a man-a-tee,” they both said in unison.

Although the pair was stopped dead in their tracks, the gentle incoming tidal current was still sweeping them inshore, as the vision of the behemoth sea cow loomed closer in their collective fields of vision. Weighing in at well over 1,000 pounds, the manatee was, indeed, an impressive sight, with a huge rotund body, a tiny face on one end and a huge horizontal, rounded tail on the other. Two small beady eyes punctuated the face, and the mouth was covered with bristly, walrus-like whiskers. The manatee’s body was covered by prop tracks, testimony to many unfortunate encounters with outboard propellers.

“Hey Mr. Manatee, where’re ya heading`?” interrogated Stoney.

Super Snook chimed in, “We’re going to Florida!”

“That’s Mrs. Manatee to you boys”, the huge manatee answered gruffly.

“Sorry Madam”, Super respectfully retorted. “You can call me Clarasibell”, she said, I’m heading to South, I got to be at the Ft. Pierce power plant by next week.” The she sea cow responded in a somewhat more friendly tone.

Super said, “We like the power plant too, the warm water feels nice, but it gets awful crowded there in the winter.”

The calm water was sharply punctuated by a burst of air with the shouted word,

“Enough!” encapsulated inside, the Ole Lady had spoken.

No further rhetoric was necessary, Super Snook, always eager to get to where he was heading.

The shimmering silver body of the famous snook quivered for a brief second before he fell back in the current and swam close to the bottom, as he appeared to be idly picking at some hapless small crustaceans that Ray continued to rouse.