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A Place that’s still Local

by Bradley Watkins
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Cedar Key National Wildlife Refuge is made up of several small islands, most of which are closed to the public for protection of wildlife and wildlife habitat. The fishing around these islands is phenomenal, and on Wednesday morning we had the privilege of joining Kenny McCain and Larry Woodward on a Carolina Skiff to capture the final footage needed for our film. Kenny is a local of Cedar Key, FL and predominantly uses a cast-net to catch fish. A cast-net is a circular net with small weights distributed around its edge and is thrown in such a manner that it spreads out on the water and sinks.

Kenny directed us into the oyster flats, which are a common site in this area, to net fish for cut-bait. We ended up with several spot, though I think Kenny was hoping for mullet, his favorite.  [He also pulled in a large black-tipped reef shark, which circled its way into a tangle in the cast-net.] Once we had our bait, rain was on the horizon. We were forced to take refuge on Seahorse Key under a pavilion leased by the University of Florida’s Marine Science Lab. It took about 20 minutes for the weather to clear, and the gnats to appear, for us to get back on the boat and fishing.

We all started casting; now was the time to document release footage of anything we caught. Kenny, Woodward and I began to pull in small sharks, Heather Jerue pulled in a spotted sea trout, and Joe Milmoe caught what we think was a hound fish. It was the first time the entire boat had caught fish! What a success. After about three hours on the water, and several camera batteries, we headed back to shore.

The afternoon was spent prepping for our last adventure: trapping alligator snapping turtles with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Later in the evening we drove over to the Shell Mound Unit of Lower Suwannee and fished with our remaining cut-bait. We didn’t catch much but sitting on the pier, overlooking the islands, was the most peaceful time for me on this journey. Only one more day, then it’s 13 hours on the road home to D.C. I don’t think I’ve really stopped to breathe in all that’s happened over the last 10 days. With a roseate spoonbill flying overhead, and frigatebirds in the distance, I’m now starting to experience and understand what Paul Kroegel and so many others fought to

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