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The Mighty Tarpon
It was like freakin' Animal Kingdom around here this weekend.

To recap:

Friday night - worked out, came home, got a video, hung out with Neal. Boring to read about, I'm sure, but it was quite nice. We've been spending money lately like it's growing out of our ears, so we needed a low-key weekend. Besides, we had plans the next day.

Saturday - Met up with 2 friends, J and E. They took us out to the Backcountry on their cool little flats boat. All of you Northerners are shivering and cursing me and groaning with envy right now, I know. I'm sorry. I feel for you. (Suckers.)

As I've mentioned before, I adore boats, so I was a happy camper. Add that to the perfect, gorgeous, sunny weather, and I was nearing estatic camper.

We always have great luck spotting sea life when we go out with these 2 friends. Last time, we saw 5 dolphins and a few sharks.

The first thing we did was find a quiet spot, eat some sandwiches, and cast our lines. Neal right off the bat caught a little baby bonnethead shark. They look like hammerheads. It was cool, like he'd pulled a tiny alien out of the ocean. We got to touch it, and weirdly, the little guy felt exactly like I expected it to. Usually fish are slimier than you anticipate. The shark's skin was kind of like a cat's tongue - rough in one direction and smooth in another.

Then, we went to this crocodile place and saw a croc and what was either another crocodile or an alligator. The first crocodile came right up to the boat. I think he was ready to jump aboard, he was that close. It was kind of scary. And here's E:

"Jamie, sit on the side of the boat by the crocodile so I can get your picture!"

Me: "I'm not sitting with my back to that thing. Do you know how FAST they are?"

By the way, Neal and J and E will try to tell you that what we saw was actually an alligator, not a saltwater crocodile. Don't listen to the sillyheads. Listen to me, Crocodile Jamie.

So then we went on a search for white pelicans. They're really rare, and J and E had spotted them this time last year in a particular spot. J picked out a few sharks on the way to the spot. Lo and behold, there was a whole flock of white pelicans, just hanging out on a sandbar. They were really weird and cool-looking, like albinos. All creamy white with pinkish beaks and black-tipped wings. Bigger than regular pelicans, too.

Guess what else we saw in that spot? Not one, but TWO bald eagles. OK, seeing those guys in real life was really weird. They're such an icon, that it was strange to actually watch them sit and preen and fly. And they were HUGE. That was Neal's favorite part.

We swam and snorkeled a little. Then we went home and grabbed some food and met back at J and E's place for dinner. It was excellent. Ate, watched a little football. Went home and watched another video, Gossip. I rather liked this movie, although deep down I know it was trash. The clothes were excellent.

Neal and I slept in yesterday and then went out for breakfast. It was yummy. We were dicking around the apartment when J and E called to see if we wanted to go tarpon fishing late in the afternoon. Sure!

From the boat in the bay, we watched the sun sink into the horizon. Pinks and greens lingered in the sky for most of the evening. We cast and waited as the sky and water both darkened steadily. Lights began blinking on from the mansions on shore. There were more stars in the sky every time we looked up. We spotted Venus and the Seven Sisters. We reeled in our hooks and discovered most of our bait had been stolen. E said a barracuda had nibbled on mine. We decided to give it a few more minutes and then give up and go home.

I got a bite. Something was pulling on the end of my rod, and the line stayed taught. E told me to reel down, but I lost it.

Almost immediatly after, J's reel started spinning out. She had one! J started fighting the fish. After about a minute, it leaped out of the water, a wet flash of silver bright in the moonlight. It was there and then it was gone, but there long enough that E shouted, "J, you have a tarpon! A BIG one!"

She was pulling it hard. I was afraid the line or the rod would snap. From what we could see and what J was saying, the fish was diving straight down to the bottom, underneath the boat. Then it would jump again, and we'd all ooh and ahh and exclaim about how beatiful this huge tarpon was. E guessed 80 lbs.

Every time the fish would jump, it was closer to the boat. J was exhausted, and said she could feel it tiring. Finally, it just kind of floated along the side of the boat. E put on some gloves, reached down, and pulled out the tarpon.

God, it was cool. What a great fish. Glistening silver with huge flat eyes and this giant mouth. It wasn't as big as I expected it to look, but it was still big. E removed the hook, helped it get more air into its gills. We said goodbye and he let it go. We packed it in and headed back. The water was inky and looked like a street. I felt like I could step right out onto it and walk to shore. Even though it was pretty dark at that point, there was a ring of bluish light all around the horizon. Neal and I held each other in the front of the boat and E picked up the speed. It was magical, flying over the water in the dark. And so quiet. E kept remarking that it felt like we were on another planet, and he was right. Neal kissed my temple and we both murmured how amazing this was and how lucky we are.

And it's true. We're talking about taking the boat to an island next weekend and camping out. Tents on the beach. Killer.

You want to visit me, don't you?

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