One spring day Nancy and I decided to head over to one of our favorite state parks here in Florida. O'leno State Park located in High Springs FL sits on the banks of the Santa Fe River which is great for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. This area has some of the most beautiful oak lined riverbanks and I recommend it to anyone looking for a nice paddle and fish location.
This trip marks the first time my wife and I every went fishing from a canoe, and the last. As we paddled up stream enjoying the beautiful forest we passed so much wildlife along the way, deer, pigs, birds, turtles, and alligator sat near the shore warming them selves in the sun. The water was a bit low this time of year so on occasion we would need to get out of the canoe and push it over logs and shallow spots in the stream. About two miles up river we passed one of the largest alligators I have seen in the wild and in person. As a nature lover and a Floridian I know that these beautiful animals want nothing more than to be left alone and to be given there space. If you leave them alone they will leave you alone. Respect is a two way street in the wild. We watched him from a far for a few minutes and then continued up the river. About fifty yards up stream we came to a section of river that looked a bit deeper and we decided to try our hand a fishing from the canoe.
Once we got the tackle and poles out and finally got our lines wet the fish started to bite right away. Nancy catching the first, a large fish know as a Bowfin. If you have never seen a Bowfin take a second to look one up. Let's just say they are very large and they have a mouth full of teeth! She reeled the fish up next to the boat and I pulled it over into the canoe, it must have been about 24 inches long. I worked the hook free from his sharp scary teeth and held him up one last time before setting him free.
Back to the fishing rods, I cast my bait in the area Nancy had been fishing before and that made her look for a new spot to cast her line. Just then she decided to turn around in the canoe with out warning to me her sudden movement flipped the boat completely spilling us and all of our stuff into the river! Rods, bait, tackle, lunch, shoes, cloths, paddles, and cooler gone! And suddenly that shallow creek that just a few minutes before was not deep enough to float a boat in was way over our heads.
My first thought was to grab the now sinking canoe, as I hold the canoe in one hand and tread water with the other I remember that only about fifty yards up stream is a giant alligator and I just released a giant fish with giant teeth in the exact spot I was now treading water. I would be lieing if I said it didn't make me a bit worried, suddenly the boat was pointed strait down as I held the front end of it. This was a 15 foot canoe and it was not touching the bottom the water must have been twenty feet deep or more. One slip of the hand and we would be walking two miles though some of the thickest Florida forest I have seen back to camp. We slowly made our way over to shore which was almost to steep to climb. It took some team work to get the canoe back afloat, I jumped in the boat and paddled with my hands down river to find our paddles and cooler stuck in a fallen tree. The whole time Nancy walked along the shore asking me if I was mad that she flipped us. At the time I was just happy to be alive! By the time we made it back to camp we had laughed so much about it my sides hurt. That is one of my favorite memories.