What the Muck? By: Paul Presson

It was the early 90’s and I had just moved to Tampa Bay.  I couldn’t afford a flats boat, so I bought a ten-foot fiberglass sit-in kayak. With a little ingenuity and some sweat, I modified the little kayak with rod holders, lights and a storage system made from a milk crate. Her name was the “Lazy Wader” and she was ready for her maiden voyage. I was a mighty kayak angler.

I had heard of an area referred to as “the kitchen” in Gibsonton. I did some research and wanted to start my kayak fishing adventures there. It was February and cold for Florida–I had to bundle up to go.

There was a tackle shop located adjacent to Bullfrog Creek. I asked the owner if I could put-in there. He said sure, as long as I bought some merchandise. The big adventure was about to commence. I had checked the tides and I would be starting right before high tide.

When I reached my destination, I hooked up on my second cast. I had just caught my first keeper trout.  All day, I caught trout after trout–I was the happiest guy on the water. I had also done some research in reference to the Big Bend power plant, which was my next destination. I knew the warm water the plant generated would lure all inshore species to that location.

When I arrived, there were several other anglers fishing from the beach and their boats. They looked at me like I was crazy as I weaved around them. I threw my little claw anchor into the water and began fishing.

It took some time, but there was that magical sound–my reel began to scream. Whatever I had was huge–this was the biggest fish I had ever had on a line.

I lifted my anchor in fear that I was going to tip over. Luckily, the fish maneuvered away from the other boats. This was my first sleigh ride–I was like a cowboy at a rodeo hanging on for dear life.

I finally got the beast in. It was a redfish, well over 30 inches. I didn’t even have room for it in the kayak–I took a picture and let it go.

I had accomplished my mission. I decided to head back to Bullfrog Creek. As I rounded a corner, everything looked different. I didn’t remember the shoreline being so close, I paddled further and for the life of me, could not find the opening to the creek.

This was bad. I pulled the kayak up to what looked like land. I stepped out and nearly rolled my little boat over. I had lost my entire leg into the abyss of a blackish colored muck. As I tried to pull my leg out, I was stuck! I had to move my foot and leg back and forth, to free myself. I looked down and noticed that I was shoe-less now too!

The realization that the tide had gone out and winter tides were very low had finally hit. I took a rope, attached it to my kayak and began to slowly pull it through what felt like quicksand. I attempted this for about an eighth of a mile and found myself waist deep in muck. I managed to pull myself out again.

This was very bad. There were no cell phones back then or I would have called the Coast Guard for a legitimate rescue. I found that if I laid on my belly and slowly crawled, I would not sink.

When I finally made it back to the water, I was forced to paddle all the way to Simmons Park in Ruskin to get the kayak somewhere that it could be picked up. Making my way to the pay phone at the park, I was covered in mud from head to toe, had one shoe and could hardly walk.

I called a friend. He seemed more than mildly agitated, but he was on his way. Laying down reviewing the day, how could someone have such a wonderful and miserable time in the span of six hours? If I learned nothing else, next time I will know to beware of winter tides.

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