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Sportsman’s Quest: Flexibility in planning leaves life open to many possibilities

A new year has begun with new possibilities and opportunities, but it takes commitment and planning.

I was fortunate this past year to experience an epic adventure worth considering as you look forward to new travel and adventure.

It began when I received a call from my friend Mark Fiorentino. He and his son, Gage, wanted to attend the world’s largest fishing trade show, International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades, or ICAST, in Orlando, Florida. And they also wanted to hunt wild boar.

This sounded like a good plan as I hadn’t attended ICAST for a couple of years and there was always something new to see and old friends to meet. I also knew where we could follow up with some great hog hunting. I was in and we began making plans.

We would fly to Orlando, enjoy the show and head south for some great hog hunting on the St. Johns River with friends I’d hunted with earlier in the year. It would be air boats, great hunting dogs and beautiful Florida marshes. We would also be able to see big alligators and observe some of the most interesting bird life the marshlands have to offer.

We didn’t know it at the time, but that would not be the end of the story.

First stop: Orlando and ICAST. We flew to Orlando, rented a car, and we were on our way. It was a fisherman’s dream. Every major manufacturer was demonstrating their new rods, reels, lines, lures, and latest “gotta have” gizmos. Others are there with every new fishing item imaginable and some you haven’t imagined but wish you had. “Why didn’t I think of that?” was a common rhetorical question.

Bottom line: It’s just fun. Gage came to the realization that all trade shows and conventions, as in life, are about building relationships, a lesson well learned and he even ended up with a neat floating hat from Boiar Hats.

While there, I got a call from a friend who asked if we wanted to do some Tarpon fishing while in Florida. Yes was the immediate answer. He had a brother, Josh Gallo of Killfish Charters, who guides out of St. Petersburg and had a couple of days free.

Mark was enthusiastic, so we postponed our wild boar hunt for a couple of days. Are you noticing some flexibility in our planning here? That is the secret to adventure. Keep it a bit open and if an opportunity offers itself, grab it.

We met in St. Petersburg two days later and found light winds and fair weather. It was not great for the end of season Tarpon; we just missed them as they headed up the coast. But grouper fishing was hot, so we went to sea. Mark and Gage had their first saltwater fishing experience. The fishing was great and we all ended the day with sore arms and an ice chest full of fish. Gage was even able to prove the value of his new floating hat. Again, the greatest gift was the relationship we developed with our new friends.

While planning our route to Christmas, Florida (yes, Christmas) and hog hunting, we noticed world famous Lake Okeechobee on the route we were planning. Mark is a bass fanatic and thought it would be great just to wet a line in this hallowed water of every bass fisherman’s dreams. Opportunity knocked again as guide Josh had a buddy who knew these waters and guided year round out of the famous Roland Martin Lodge with its great, remarkably affordable, accommodations.

Our plans changed again. We could spend a day at Lake Okeechobee on our way to our hog hunting destination.

We met our guide, Doyle, upon our arrival and planned an early morning start the next day. Now bass fishermen like to start at 0-dark-thirty, so the next morning we were on our way through the maze of reeds to some of the best bass fishing anywhere. It lived up to its reputation, but the record book bass eluded us; maybe next time, and there will be a next time. Oh yes, and Gage was able to recover his blown-off hat again.

A great day and bass fanatic Mark was good for another, but the next morning he went alone with the guide, as Gage and I slept in and let our bodies recover. When Mark and Doyle came in for lunch, the conversation turned to the ultimate bass fishing experience, and that’s peacock bass.

I had experienced Amazon peacock bass fishing in Brazil, but was unaware that peacocks were released on some of the waters of Florida and thrived. Yep, you guessed it, our new guide friend had another friend who was a peacock bass fishing guide in the West Palm Beach area, which was on our way to Christmas and our hog hunt. So a couple of calls were made and no problem, the plans changed again.

The following morning we met our guide, Dave Lauer of Pro Team. We fished the canals and the peacocks hit fast and furious, as I had remembered from Brazil. They are certainly one of the fastest, most voracious and beautiful sport fish. The action of these two-to-ten-pounders is superior to any largemouth or smallmouth bass, but for big twenty-pound-plus Amazon peacocks, go to Brazil for a great once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

We had a great afternoon of fishing, made a new friend in Dave and were finally on our way to Christmas, Florida.

The next day, we finally met up with my friends Brian Booker and Seth Whittaker and the hog hunt was planned for the following morning. We would use the airboat to search for wild boar in the marshy grassland, bushy meadows and small islands. Brian would bring his two chase dogs, Jack and Ruger, as well as catch dog Cain.

We would bay a hog and the hunter would then jump on its back and dispatch it with a large knife. Sorry, plan change. I brought with me a short Zulu spear which I had acquired in South Africa and thought it more efficient and preclude jumping on a raging wild boar’s back. We would see.

As we left the launch site at fifteen or twenty miles per hour, the chase dogs were hanging over the bow with their ears flowing in the wind, sniffing for the recent scent of a hog. When they detected one we would slow down and they bailed out and were gone in the bush. We followed, and when they had him bayed, the catch dog would be released. It went in and grabbed the boar by the ear and we then bailed out, hoping not to step on one of the many alligators. We caught up and deftly speared the hog as the adrenaline flowed.

That’s how our simple trip turned into an epic adventure – ICAST, ocean fishing, Lake Okeechobee, peacock bass, and wild boar – all in two weeks.

Knowing what I know now, we could have planned this adventure and I recommend you follow our trail if you’re looking for something new, but be ready to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. That is the true “spirit of adventure.”

For this coming year, I suggest going for it. If not now, when? Like Gage says, “It’s all about relationships.” Or, as the historic hunter and explorer, William Hornady, once said, “Go forth and do likewise.”

If you have a story or comment about this or other articles, please contact me at dansimmons@usa.net or give me a call at 775-727-9777.

For more information contact:

Killfish Charters, captjgallo@hotmail.com, or facebook.com/captjgallo

Pro Team, Capt. Dave Lauer, dave@bassonline.com

Roland Martin Lodge, Lake Okeechobee, www.rolandmartinmarina.com

Wild Boar, Christmas, Florida, Brian Booker (407)936-4691

Upcoming conventions

A good place to start planning for this year’s hunting and fishing adventures is at one of these upcoming outdoor conventions. You will meet old friends and make new ones. We’re fortunate to have most of these in Las Vegas.

Jan. 17-20, Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) show, Las Vegas Sands Convention Center. www.shotshow.org

Jan. 19-21, Wild Sheep Foundation at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center, www.wildsheepfoundation.org

Jan. 21, Nevada Sportsmen Unlimited (NSU), Las Vegas Gold Coast Casino. wwwnevadasportsmanunlimited.org

Jan. 25-28, Grand Slam Club Ovis, Las Vegas Westgate Resort Casino, gsco@wildsheep.org

Jan. 28, SCI Las Vegas Chapter Banquet, Gold Coast Hotel and Casino, scilasvegas.com, or Ryan Dennett (702) 275-4555

Feb. 1-4, Safari Club International (SCI) Convention. This is the world’s largest hunting convention. Las Vegas Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, www.safariclub.org

Feb. 25, Las Vegas Woods and Waters (LVWW) Banquet, South Point Hotel and Casino, www.LVWoodsandWaters.org, or Dave Famiglietti @newfrontierarmory.com

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