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Posted on Sep 22, 2008 in Top Shots
Unwelcome Visitors

I just this afternoon finished writing up an item for the November issue's news pages about an "unwelcome visitor" on a poor guy's boat. Seems he was fishing alongside a jetty in a British Columbia seaport, minding his own business, when a black bear ambled down and then leapt aboard. The angler tossed him a coho salmon, but apparently he wasn't fond of fish. He came after the man and quickly had him pinned to the deck. Then ... well, I can't give it all away, now, can I? You'll find the whole story in the November SF News section.

It did get me thinking about some unwelcome visitors of my own. One of the more distant memories involves my wife - though back then, when we were both undergrads at the University of Florida she had not yet accepted that distinction - who was my angling partner in my Grumman canoe on Orange Lake. The wind had come up and kept pushing the canoe back toward shore after I'd paddle out and we'd make a few casts.

Only this time, we ended up with more than an overhanging branch in the canoe with us. Curled up on the branch just above the water was a fat water moccasin. (No, it wasn't one of the area's many harmless if pugnacious water snakes; it was a cottonmouth with that big ugly pit-viper head.) Long story short, I managed - somehow, without capsizing us - to coax our guest over the side with a paddle before it could show its displeasure by sinking fangs into some body part.

So far I've never had a gator attempt an unauthorized boarding of my kayak, though I do frequently fish among them. Generally they slip quietly beneath the water should my kayak pass their comfort zone; I only fear that I may drift right over a big one (yeah, I've been around 10-footers) in very shallow water. I did encounter one smaller fellow - perhaps 7 feet - in the Banana River a year or so back that insisted on shadowing me, staying within 10 feet or so. That was all it did but after a while the unusual behavior did become disconcerting.

The biggest wild-animal scare I've had in my kayak actually happened twice in the Indian River estuary thanks to a combination of factors, notably that I was fishing pretty murky water about four feet deep - too murky for me to see the bottom or anything over it. And I was fishing my Hobie Outback - among its many paddle-free-propulsion advantages for fishing is total silence. That is, the ingenious blades beneath the kayak that pedals operate make not a sound -- no dip or splash as would a paddle. I recall drifting in a very light breeze while tying a rig and pedaling very slowly on absolutely still waters. Suddenly a depth charge went off beneath my kayak, tossing me up as if I were on a bucking bronco! A huge tail had pushed off when a big normally sedentary manatee suddenly realized something large was moving almost on top of it. My heart was doing the snare-drum thing for several minutes after that.

Still, it could have been worse. Not long ago, a saltwater crocodile leapt into a "tinny," as Australians call their small boats, and helped itself to dinner - pulling the hapless fisherman right over the side. Be glad that you don't fish northern Australia where those big toothy lizards do such things every year. - Doug Olander, Sport Fishing

Have you had an encounter with an unwelcome visitor on your boat? Click here to share your experience!