Fishing the Fifty
My Quest to Fish All 50 States
I love Florida and I was very lucky growing up to be able to visit my grandparents several times in Nokomis, a beautiful town on the Gulf side. Being in Florida around Christmas time was always incredible, even on the 60-degree days my grandmother referred to as “cold.” Simply walking through the neighborhoods provided an opportunity for wildlife watching, whether for alligators or, in later years, wild hogs. As a kid, I thought Everglades National Park was one of the coolest places in the world, and my feelings for it have not changed as an adult, even after traveling all over the country.
Florida is also synonymous with fishing, both freshwater and saltwater. I fished with Chuck Leach (lakecharter.com) on Lake Tohopekaliga, in Kissimmee. Like many Florida lakes, Toho is immense and very shallow, so having an expert guide like Chuck who knows the best spots is imperative for a trophy hunt. We fished on a beautiful and clear 76-degree February day. My first fish of the day was an impressive 27.5-inch trophy largemouth bass, which is still my personal best. Several largemouth bass later, I caught another trophy, a 24.5-inch largemouth.
Even though I caught the trophy largemouth bass well before I learned of Florida’s Big Catch Angler Recognition Program, Florida graciously allowed me to submit them belatedly, so my February 2009 trophies were officially recognized in March 2014. Virginia does not have a deadline for trophy fish submission either, but many states do, which is too bad because belated submission (under the condition that no prizes are awarded) still promotes trophy fishing in the state. Florida’s allowing it is just another reason to love Florida.
Welcome to Florida
Morning on Lake Toho
My first fish of the day, a 27.5-inch trophy largemouth bass
My second trophy, a 24.5-inch largemouth bass
This guy is a little friendlier than some of the other wildlife I've seen in Florida