Fast Food from the Front Hatch

As always, before each article I poke around to see what paddle folks are chatting about, what's hot and new in the industry, as well as what's happening in the sport. There is never a shortage of new products (which is great), but to keep it fair I'll save that for an upcoming issue about ICAST 2012 in Orlando. And, there is never a shortage of chatter about us catching fish. No denying our success.

But sometimes the emphasis turns to the paddling and less on the fishing. That happened to us a few weeks ago when my family decided to head out for a few hours. Low key, minimal gear, just get out for a little while. The destination would be Shell Key, and we'd launch from a cut in the mangroves leading in to Fort DeSoto Park (St. Pete, FL). 5 minute ride from home, 15 minute paddle to reach our destination.

I was glad that we live so close because in my quest to travel light I forgot to get my granddaughters PFD. So, I unloaded the boats and then went back home abiding by all posted traffic signs. I return - We go.

My granddaughter is old enough to start paddling on her own, but for this trip it was simply easier/quicker just to tow her behind the Hobie. By the way - the pink rod on the left is hers.

Lesson learned: Once the boat being towed starts to move, the resistance is a lot less than you think.

Shell Island will be to the left, but we have to paddle past some prime real estate to the right and come in from behind in order to get there. This area can be crazy shallow even on a high tide, so it's better to take the long way rather than dragging the boats through the mud. Trust me, I just know these things. 

But, the end justifies the means. Once we clear a shallow flat, we approach the backside of Shell Key.

Everybody OUT! Time to hit the beach!

We are at the far north end of Shell Key, and the beach facing the Gulf of Mexico is just across the tiny tip of the island. The only access is by water and due to the shallow approach it's a paddler's paradise.

We only packed some water and soft drinks for this trip because we only planned to be here a couple hours. Well, that turned in to more hours, and we started getting hungry. The options before us were clear. We could pack up, paddle back, and find sustenance *or* I could go hit a drive-thru. Which option do you think I opted for? I go.

Billy's Stone Crab Restaurant is also located behind Shell Key. It's a complex of several restaurants on several levels, including a rooftop bar that has a view like no other. I volunteered to make that voyage, and go get food for my family - the provider.

Shell Key to Billy's Once I got there and ordered our food, of course I had to wait for it. So, I just got off the water, just got out of the sun, and found myself at a roof top tiki bar. What *do* you do to pass the time? I'm just sayin' …

Shell Key to Billy's 

Once I got there and ordered our food, of course I had to wait for it. So, I just got off the water, just got out of the sun, and found myself at a roof top tiki bar. What *do* you do to pass the time? I'm just sayin' …

Once the orders were ready it was back down the stairs and lunch was safely secured … right next to the cast net.

I'm rarely disappointed when I have a meal in close proximity to the water. But this meal was especially grand. Nothing quite like having a family meal served from the front hatch of a kayak. Ah fishing, can't forget about the fishing. My granddaughter fished some, but she was having way more fun playing on the beach - smart kid. For me, some days I simply get lucky.

Wouldn't you know it … I have a grilled chicken sandwich for lunch and then catch a big flounder for supper. Not hardly. The flounder was gently released back to the gulf instead of into a pan of grease.

The paddle back was pretty uneventful and quiet. We arrived at the launch tired, but most of all, relaxed. Win/Win.

We will soon get back to the nuts and bolts of paddle angling. But in the meantime, try to capitalize on hidden opportunities such as mine. And enjoy the journey, even if it's only 6 minutes.

See you out on the water …

"Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after"
~ Henry David Thoreau

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