Friday, November 30, 2007

Cornbread tastes pretty good!

Pompano is supposed to be one of the best tasting fish there is. I wouldn't know because I can't catch any. Maybe today?

What I am catching is bluefish! I didn't get to the beach, for fishing, until yesterday as the waves were huge. Big surf with tubes forming. So yesterday after tennis and lunch, I went down at 1 pm and saw fish jumping by a sandbar. I went down there, waded out, and tossed a frozen shrimp into a swirl. I then waded back to shore put the pole into a holder and started to bait the other pole.

Now there is a whole bunch of things in that statement. First, I met a former teacher, now a real estate agent, who told me the jumping fish were mullet, probably being chased by blue fish. As I waded out I had a good sized fish chased minnows right up to me!

Anyway I turned and looked at my pole to see it had a big fish hooked, I grabbed the pole and had one of the best fights I have ever had,(I was using light spinning gear). The fish had powerful runs. It took me ten minutes to finally beach it. I actually had a crowd of people watching. It was a bluefish. Luckily one of the people warned me not to put my fingers in it's mouth as bluefish have sharp teeth. I put it on a stringer, it promptly died, and now I had the dilemma of fishing or riding my bike back to camp to clean the fish. Soooooooo.... I packed up my gear, went back to camp, and cleaned the fish. I then repacked my gear and rode back to the beach, put out the poles and soon had another bluefish on. Fought that one for a while until it cut my line. The fish quit biting and that was it for the day.
What did I learn? Bluefish are the worst tasting fish I have ever eaten, but man can they fight. I also learned to don't keep bluefish and never leave a fishing feeding frenzy. What a day!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Pompano Fishing?

Still here at Topsail and enjoying the walks and bike rides. We went to a movie in Destin, American Gangster. Enjoyed the movie but it did make you sick of dope dealers and wish they would all rot in hell..........

Anyway the blog is about pompano fishing and I don't have a clue. The score is still me 0 and the pompano 2. The first time I went to the beach to try out my new surf fishing pole. Cast some and fished with some shrimp, dead, and didn't have a bite. As we were leaving we met a guy who was going fishing for pompano. So I told him we didn't have any bites but confessed that I didn't really have a clue. He said he was catching them so I asked him what he was using and he said he ran a guide service and wouldn't tell me anything unless I hired him, hmmmmm... So I then asked him if it was ok if I watched him fish and he said he ran a guide service so if I paid him I could watch him, hmmmmm... Obviously a guy who has no friends.

I wished him well and left him to walk to his spot and then I walked back over the sand dunes and watched where he was fishing so I would have a clue. I also looked up pompano fishing on the internet. It told me to use sand fleas(?) and maybe floaters. Now I had looked at his poles to see his rigs and he was using a small spin and glow.

So the next day we went to Destin and bought sand fleas, frozen. I couldn't sleep as I was so excited. I got up early and rode to the beach to discover the tide was way out and still dropping. I spent two hours fishing, caught a blue crab, and got a super backlash on my reel. I also found some nice seashells and found a quarter.

I learned some things.

Sand fleas,really mole crabs, are really hard to use as they are so small they break into pieces when you try to hook them. It's really easy to cast your bait off. Next I think I learned that fishing with huge breakers, they were forming tubes, and fishing at low tide is pretty worthless. Still it's data none the less.

On a positive note I discovered two structures to fish at high tide. I did cast jigs for a while with no success. Not the first time I have been skunked and for sure not the last. You know what they say even a bad day fishing is better then a good day at work.

So today is the day. I am preparing myself mentally and spiritually to go to the beach this afternoon and fish the incoming tide. Hopefully the breakers will be smaller,(the one time we were there when it was calm there was a school of fish jumping). Today is the day. Fish for supper or cornbread!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving at Topsail

We had our first Thanksgiving in our new house and we were able to have all the usual stuff. The convection oven and the smaller traditional oven both worked fine. The dinner consisted of smoked turkey breast, stuffed sweet potato, cranberry sauce, stuffing, green beans, and dinner rolls. This was followed by pumpkin pecan pie.

Everything was great except the pie. I had saw a show with Paula Dean, who showed placing pecans in the bottom of the pie and pouring the filling on top. So I did. Renita liked it, she will eat any pie, but I thought the nuts became soggy and imparted a bitter taste to the pie. I can't stand bitter tastes, like grapefruit, so maybe its because I am one of those genetically different people that have an unusual taste. Anyway I thought it was terrible.

Spent the rest of the day talking on the phone and watching football. We took a bike ride to Santa Rosa beach which is about four miles. All in all a pretty lazy day,(with the usual dog walks of course). You can cross off Santa Rosa beach as a place to live as the houses are all mansions, three and four stories tall. Not quite what a retired teacher can afford,(I did talk with a developer in Panama City who said the housing market was overpriced as a house that was selling for 50000 ten years ago was valued at 400000 today. He also said the market had slowed to nothing and prices were being reduced).

We forgot Friday was the busiest shopping day of the year. We went to town to buy milk and and got caught in a traffic jam as people were lined up at lights trying to turn into the mall. Thank goodness we were not going there. We also didn't go to bass pro although I aways need fishing gear. Got back and took a two mile walk to the beach. It's really neat as I don't know the names of any trees and plants here. There is so much to learn.

The waves have been too big to surf fish, a red flag was out today, so I am patiently waiting for some calmer conditions. Nothing really planned for Saturday or Sunday. The park is really crowded for the holiday.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park

We left St Andrews and drove a total of 43 miles. We arrived at Topsail to find an upscale rv state park with all the conveniences, including cable tv and full hookups. What a place! Got setup, with no problems, ate lunch, rested, and went for a bike ride.

We went to the beach and watched the sunset. The beach is about three miles of straight, white sand, backed by protected sand dunes. The sand dunes are off limits because they contain an endangered mouse, the dune mouse.

What a beach, no boats, no seashells, sterile environment, and only about 10 people so plenty of solitude. Rode back to our house and watched the Broncos beat Tennessee. Anyway I am getting tired so I will post pictures tomorrow.

Heading to Topsail

Well the day has come and it's time to say goodbye to St Andrews State Park. It has really been fun here, even though I didn't catch any spanish mackerel. We spent 14 days here and the it feels like it's time to move,(referred as hitch itch by rv people).

I did go fishing early on Sunday but didn't catch any. I lost a nice grouper, broke off, and saw spanish mackerel jumping but didn't get any hits. I did catch a new species of fish, a searobin. It's a fish with huge pectoral fins that have mutated into feet and it walks on the sea floor. Ugly to say the least.
A few other thoughts on our stay at St Adnrews. We caught 4 flounder that measured and my best day was Thursday when I caught 5, of which one measured. Renita caught the biggest flounder at 16.5 inches. The bigggest one we saw was 18.
We saw a big, and I mean big cottonmouth sunning itself at the marsh, and as we watched it Renita spied two deer wading though the marsh near the snake, ( The deer are small here).
An east wind blows here, subtropics and easterlies, and it brings the unforgetable smell of the paper mill/lumbermill. THis is one of the advantages of being stuffed up with allergies as I can't smell it as much as Renita.

We walked around the park and took images of the nine sites we liked, besides 002 where we are at, so when we come back we will have a better idea. Topsail is supposed to be the best state park, for rv's, in the nation, so we will see if it lives up to it's hype.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Comet Homes

We had a really good day yesterday as we finally got close to a gator at Gator Lake. Rode our bikes to the lake and walked the trail and there it was, about 15 feet away. It was pretending to be sleeping but it kept opening and closing one eye. Sly devil. Made me think of alligator wrestling and fried gator!

Then to top off the day, after spending the afternoon at the beach, we were walking the dog, enjoying the stars and I noticed that there were a bunch you don't see in Gillette as we were so far south. As I was looking them up online I saw there was a new naked eye visible comet, Comet Homes, and we went out and spotted it!

Raining this morning so we are taking the dog to get her groomed and doing some other stuff we have neglected.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


While we normally eat most of our meals at home, healthier and cheaper, we have gone out to eat twice here in Panama City. For lunch we went to an overpriced poor quality place and last night we went to Hunts Oyster Bar. Hunts has the best seafood we have eaten in a long time!

Renita had the mahi-mahi dinner and I had the shrimp and oysters. Maybe the best I have eaten. We followed that with a key lime pie that was almost equal to mine.

We also went fishing yesterday afternoon and while Renita caught a flounder I caught lizard fish and four small groupers. The flounder spot was packed with people. I did use the beach cart I made, cost 23 bucks, and it worked fine. Does need another cross member. I used stainless steel hardware. We will see how long it takes to rust, before building a new cart. I also went fishing in the morning off the dock as I had heard that someone caught flounder there but no success.

Today we are going to take a break and go to the beach as a cold front is coming through tomorrow.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Gator Lake

Well we finally saw a gator at Gator Lake! Went for a bike ride Sunday morning and a gator was cruising across the lake. Walked around the nature trail and got a closer view but it was still across the lake.

Went to the marsh overview and saw lots of blue herons and heard a giant splash nearby, which we assume was a big gator but didn't see it so we amused ourselves by watching a lizard Renita spotted . The park is really crowded as it's a three day weekend, Veterans Day.

Our flounder spot had 34 people fishing it with four boats. I am always amazed at the people that own boats and go fishing where you could walk and bother the shore fisherman. The boats that know what they are doing are catching spanish mackerel. Walked onto the Gulf side fishing pier and saw some fisherman casting to a big fish that swam within their range but no hit. I am wishing I had a boat.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Floundering Around St Andrews

Catching flounder! Renita's catching bigger flounder! Here's a typical day. Get up, eat breakfast, walk the dog, go for a bike ride, look for alligators, lunch, followed by flounder fishing.

Flounder are pretty easy to catch, as you just throw out a bull minnow, lip hooked, on a carolina rig and slowly drag it along the bottom. Oh and pause often. Circle hooks make hooking them easy so it's pretty simple. Oh and Renita is out fishing me every day.

I have tried throwing plastic grubs but we are catching them on bull minows. I did catch a black grouper, they fight well, an atlantic croaker, and a bunch of lizard fish which look ulgier than their name sounds.

Flounder taste really good, so there are lots of other flounder fisherman. The flounder migrate down the lagoon and go out into the gulf to spawn. The trick seems to be fishing where they are halted ad the high tide comes into the pass. Oh and the other trick is remembering the tides so you bait doesn't die.

The attached picture is from a bike ride around the park.

Yesterday we took a break and went to a crafts fair. They are equally bad here, but it was for charity so I talked with other husbands about paybacks. Today we are gong to take a break from flounder and go to the gulf side beach. There also happens to be a fishing jetty next to the beach, hmmmmm........

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Sunrise at St Andrews

Got up early this morning and we watched the sunrise. It is cold as a front just came through so we took it easy, did some repacking, and I got a haircut. Wow, life is good when a haircut is a big event!

In the afternoon we walked the dog and went to the fishing pier and watched a guy from Nebraska catch eel. Cast jigs to no avail and got to talking to a guy who was from Florida and casting a net to catch mullet for their eggs,(roe). He said they cooked them smothered, with the lid on. He also tried to catch some pinfish for bait for me but to no avail. He did tell me that if we wanted to catch flounder we should go down to the far end of the island.

We took his advice and I caught a flounder. We had other bites but for some reason we are missing them so its learning time again. Maybe if I buy more gear and poles and.....Can't wait till tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Safely in St Andrews

Yeah, after a year of planning and over 5400 miles of driving,(2400 round trip getting the fifth wheel and 2000 from Rock Springs to here), we are at St Andrews State Park in Florida,(Campsite 002). We left Gulf Shores, Al, at 10am and it took us 4.5 hours to go the scenic route along the coast. This does include getting off route and other harrowing experiences in Pensacola. At least we escaped with no damage and I must say the Florida drivers were nice.........Shopping malls and condos for over half the distance but it got pretty just before Panama City.

The park is beautiful, our site is on the lagoon and we are staying put for two weeks. The park ranger told us we have one of the best spots in the park. I will post a couple of pics later today. Anyway we got set up took a walk and relaxed at our house on the seashore. Retirement is good.

Monday, November 5, 2007


Got up and drove to Gulf Shores, Alabama which is a drive of only 110 miles and we found................

Squeaky sand! I have never been to a place where the sand squeaks when you step on it. It is amazing! It is about 100% fine quartz and white, oh my! We are in Gulf Shores Alabama, staying at Gulf Breeze Campground, and Renita has found a place she would stay at! It has my two favorites also.

The campground is rated five stars, the highest rating Woodalls gives and it deserves it's rating. It is older, but well maintained, roomy and the shower house and facilities are top notch. Plus the monthly rate is 410, so it is well under budget.

After walking the beack we finished the day bu having a pina colada at the pink pub and saw dolphins. Went back to or house, grilled burgers, and called it a day. Or as Renita said, "A very good day."

Lots of neat stores, fish markets, gulf courses, and of course the beach is ever present, about 2 miles away. Nice. This is definitely a come back to place.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Biloxi, Mississippi

After taking a break at Vicksburg we pondered which way to go and ended up going south to Biloxi. Woodalls Campng guide saved us again and we ended up a Majestic Oaks Camprgound. Called Majestic Oaks, which should be majestic because it is also the most expensive placed we have stayed.

It is also the only campground open after katrina. We got here in the afterrnoon, about 2 pm, and rested before going to the beach and driving around to see the damages. The rebuiding effort has gone well but there is so much still gone. One old building has a sign showing the water level. It is amazing anything survived.

I did wade in the Gulf, so I have waded in Lake Superior and the Gulf, in about a months time!

We are so excited to be near our long goal of St Andrews Park In Florida.

Vicksburg and The Battlefield Park

Got to Vicksburg and found our campground, Riverview(like you could see the river not... just the trees), and set up and the took a nap and rested from te drive. The campground host provided us with a cd of the driving tour of the battlefield and so the next day we left and had a really neat time touring the battlefield, listening to the cd, and walking the sites. Also got to visit the Cairo River gunboat museum.

Talked with Mike just before we toured and learned that Butler's,Grandmother Brackin/Miller's grandparent had brothers in the 38th Iowa that fought in the battle. Unfortunately they got malaria as they were camped in a swamp and the site of the 38th had the plaque stolen sooo..... anyway it was so neat. I had used the oxbow bend of the Mississippi river at Vicksburg in my classes as an example of man trying to change the river so it was really neat to actually be there.

After touring the battlefield we went to the old town and ate unhealthy fried catfish and saw the place where Coke Cola was invented and then tried to find dog food to no avail so that was frustrating so we went back to camp and planned our next day drive.

The picture is of the Iowa Monument on the left and I am in a line of Union Cannons on the right.

The Cotton Fields of Mississippi

After two days at Lake Texoma, we had to leave. However of all the places we have been, this is a neat place and worth an extended stay. So we left and planned on a normal drive and ended up driving 300 miles, a normal day is 200. Why, because we could not find a campground in Arkansas. Now there are lots of campgrounds but few along 82, the road we were driving and the one we were looking for had closed for good. So we ended up driving till we got to El Dorado ad ended up in the Wal-Mart parking lot. What a place to overnight on Halloween! Teenagers driving by with loud music booming from their vehicles, knowing that they were planning mayhem…….. I worried so much I stayed up till 10 pm before falling asleep and having a good night’s sleep, with no problems whatsoever.
We got up and decided to drive to Vicksburg. Took 82 east to Mississippi and Leetown and then south to Vicksburg. Found a campground without any trouble. What a drive! Between the huge cotton fields and the swamps, and bayou’s and we drove across the Yahoo River by Yahoo City! I taught about yahoo rivers for 30 years! Got to watch the cotton harvest with cotton pickers and huge bales, topped by plastic that comes out of the pickers. Oh my. WE stopped and Renita picked some cotton along the road!
Resting now for a busy day tomorrow as we age going to the Vicksburg National Battlefield Park and plan on spending a day here absorbing the history.