Lake Jackson Bobcats

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: & / Personal / Stories / Themes / Fishing /
@ K. 2004 02 04

A dozen or more years ago I was fishing Lake Jackson (see below) along the northeast shore: very weedy, cattails conspicuously emergent. I’m primarily a shoreline fisherman. I fly-cast my popper trying to bounce it off the stems so that it will fall onto the surface within an inch of the stem. I’ll inevitably knock a few insects off the weed: good chum, give the bluegills a freebie before I nail them. To switch styles I’ll flip a bass worm in among the weeds: dead stick it, let it sit for a minute or two. Then I’ll give the worm a little action: very little.

The county has increased the population of sterile carp hoping to clean up the once clear water a bit. Now you can see hardly any weeds from the shore or from the boat; but this wader knows: under the surface it’s still pretty ugly down there: dead stems instead of living weeds. Poor fish. If I were a fish I’d move to Louisiana: or secede! If I could get the votes.

Anyway, at that time the cattails were thick and deep along that shore. The edge of the water had to average two hundred yards from actual dry land. I’d get right in among the weeds. Insects all over me, blind millers flying into my eyes … but that’s where I hope to find the lunker: and plenty of bruising bluegills.

cattails graphic

Quiet, quiet. On this day: far from all but water traffic: and that happened to be light. Ah, solitude. But I hear mewling, whimpering … cat sounds.

Huh? I listen. I cock my ear. I stand in the boat, up on the seat, and try to peer over the tops of the cattails. I row back out to open water and come back in a dozen feet further along where the weeds are thinner. I no longer hear the cats but neither do I see anything that could hold a cat. I’d figured there could be another boat even deeper hidden than I was. One day somebody will stick a shot gun through the reeds and into my face, hoping for a deer, for a pig … I go back where I was: there’s the mewling again.

I came in from several angles, eventually satisfied that no old boat ramp was falling to pieces out there that a cat could have walked out on. Some mother cat had a nest out there full of kittens but no dry land for a good distance. Now the question was: what kind of cat?

bobcat graph

I judged a nest of bobcats to be most likely. COULD have been a domestic cat gone feral. It COULD have been a nest for a panther. Man oh man. Even if it was a domestic cat I didn’t want to stick my face through the weeks and actually find them playing bat-the-yarn with my eyeball. And, if they were wild cats, either bobcat or panther … they’d come all this way to be alone, to be safe from man … I didn’t want to bother them. I sure did want to see what they were though.

So I sat listening: imagining the mother trying to wade out there, keeping as dry as possible on the dense weed mats. I was also remembering my first experience of wild cats not afraid of swimming. 1990: I saw a jaguarundi deliberately enter the South Canal in Highlands Hammock State Park and go fishing, snake-ing, turtle-ing … ‘gator-ing if she could find a little one. He was a she, I’m sure, and a mother. Because it was March, kitten time: and broad daylight. That night creature must have been hunting twenty-four hours a day to keep up with the demand for her milk.

So sure: it could have been a jaguarundi. They alas are far more plentiful around here than panthers. I’ve seen ten jaguarundi for every bobcat I’ve seen: and I’ve seen plenty of bobcats.

thanx animal-dino

So I stayed quiet and listened: and listened: hoping for some sign by which I might guess their species. My mind touched them. Physically, visually, I left them alone.

Yes, I’ve had some wonderful shoreline experiences: wading, or from the fourteen footer, from the canoe … One time I was sitting at the edge of the spatterdock on the north shore of Lake Josephine: the south east lake (of three, all connected). I was quietly minnowing for specks. Afternoon deepened. I heard the sandhill cranes from far away. Three flew in and landed on the marshy shore not a hundred feet from me. The cranes walked around, checked things out, seemed satisfied … didn’t seem to notice me watching them.

And they started to dance! They’d selected their courting ground and now they were showing their stuff.

Another time on Arbuckle Creek, just where delta becomes creek off Lake Istokpoga, I was casting my fly rod to the edge of the spatterdock, and a turkey emerged onto the level dry ground. Turkeys you may realize are very cautious birds, very easily spooked. But this gal was watching the land side like a hawk: excuse me, like a raptor’s victim. She never checked the water side! I’ve seen plenty of wild turkey’s by now, especially along canals and creeks, rivers, but never so close for so long: fifty feet at most.

2006 09 21 Last evening I waded Lake Jackson into another weird experience with a not-positively identified mammal. There are pockets of water just off shore that are waist to shoulder deep, whereas a few feet further off shore may be so shallow your calves may be only half-covered, maybe only your ankles. I was approaching the shore, the north edge of Veterans Park, and was working from the middle of one of the deeper pools. Not far, themselves working extreme shallows, a half dozen big carp were showing their dorsal fins.

Suddenly, from a fast-moving wake, between me and the shore, a head stuck up out of the water. It stuck up so vertically it can only have been, at that speed, from a mammal. Not even turtles show their head quite that erect.

What the hell? A river otter? I see otters, always welcome, wonderful, swift, smart, daring creatures, in the creeks, in the canals, in the river … but never in a lake! Almost never.

Actually I MAY have seen otters in lakes but never where I’m sure (there’s so much more water for them to disappear into!)

Well. I’m forever explaining to well-meaning bystanders when I come ashore, No, I am not afraid of the alligators. It’s not that I COULDN’T get hurt. I COULD also get hit by lightning. I don’t regard it was a risk worth worrying about: even though it’s a real risk. Traffic is what’s dangerous. Government. Not alligators. (I am afraid of water moccasins, but, when I see one, he is NEVER coming at me.)

Wading, I watch the wading birds. Recently I’ve been laughing at both of us as I realise my mid-water gait, my pace, has come to duplicate theirs. I wonder if I look like them! The moccasins swim in deadly earnest, swim fast, hunting; but not hunting me.

Ah, but an otter! or whatever this thing is: maybe that I should worry about. I stand stock still. Surely he sees me, even the water just here seems murky from a dark bottom. (I’m in a part of the lake that has only recently been dredged from thick weeds, bog-like land. There are even rocks underfoot! From someone’s old landscaped garden? Tricky footing which I penetrate anyway, so far with luck on my side.) [2012 10 20 No, I’ve examined those rocks many times since: no, they’re part of the lake, of the geology, natural rocks: damn dangerous for wading, break an ankle in a second.]

I figure the otter will see me and avoid me. It’s ducked its head back under, is now swimming without showing a wake. I don’t know where it is. I’m fishing with my stoutest spinning rod: braided line with a four or so foot monofilament leader: 12# test typical. A smallish, maybe #2, hook, and on it, wacky-style, a tailless do-nothing worm: my favorite bait the last couple of years. The “worm” is fat enough to cast without any lead weight added. I throw my worm as far east of me as I can, get it out of the way of this otter.

Moments before the carp had been working that area. You’ll grow gray, blind, and die before a carp will hit that kind of bait — I caught one carp once on a small plastic worm: 4″, but with a tail. But a second later I feel a small strike. Something has picked up my bait. Now something is moving with it. I set the hook.

Actually I think I’m a bit short of the shallows where I’d seen the carp. There can always be a bass: practically anywhere. Gar will come shallow. Gar will sit at the edge between shallow and somewhat deeper, just as a bass may, just as lots of things may. Earlier I’d had a tailed, bulleted worm bitten off right behind the hook. Sounds like a gar. Earlier I’d had the tail of that same worm pulled and pulled. Probably by warmouth, could be by bluegills … What’s picked up my wacky worm here? I’m about to find out. I set the hook! My quarry bolts. My rod bends over hard: then straitens, no resistance. And I hear a yelp! of surprise. and pain. The yelp comes AFTER resistance has ceased. The line has broken, my knot failed … my line was bit … the hook failed … before the crittur yelped.

But what kind of yelp was that? An animal yelp for sure. Had to be my mammal of moments ago. But do otters make a sound like that? I’d never heard one cry in distress. Sounded like a damn cat!

By this time I’ve got my line-end back and can inspect it. The knot failed. No. The line broke: within the knot. I’ve still got curlycues at the end, but like a half a curlycue.

But by that time it occurs to me: could my creature have been a jaguarundi kitten?

jaguarundi, black phase
thanx backcountrytrail

If my creature was an otter, it was a small otter. I think otters run around 16 pounds. The otter I have on tape dragging a huge snake in its mouth I figure had to be twice that size: a big old grizzled male. The head that popped up in front of me would be lucky to be half of 16 pounds: a young otter, a small otter. Flattened skull. Black looking but probably actually gray: in better light.

It fits. That’s the shape and color of a jaguarundi in its dark phase!

It’s been years since I’ve seen one, but I know: those South American cats are all over this part of Florida: the Ringlings had kept some, some would have escaped. They’ve flourished. A human in Highlands County is more likely to see this alien cat than a native panther: maybe more likely to see it than the native and abundant but highly secretive bobcats. Furthermore, as said in a much older entry to this very same file, jaguarundis, maybe all South American cats, jaguars for sure (Asian tigers too perhaps), hunt underwater as well as on land. They have to come up for air. So do otters, so do turtles, so do frogs. I can just picture a South American wild cat prowling the muck bottom, muck like I’m standing in. Like anhingas: anhingas walk the bottom of a stream or lake, though they can also swim it, using their wings like fins.

I sure didn’t want to hook an otter. And I absolutely didn’t want to hook a jaguarundi kitten. Poor thing. But I sure as hell hooked something. (Boy, do I look ridiculous on those occasions where an alligator takes my fly and I set the hook with the fly rod before I see what’s at the other end: the alligator is trying madly to get away from me and I’m trying madly to get away from it, though not by letting go my precious flyrod. There we are, attached to each other, like those ridiculous knife fights where the combatants have their left arms bound together.)

I have never been one of those who say that lobsters feel no pain. You have to wrestle with them, to overpower them, to jam them down into the pot of boiling water. If it’s not pain they’re feeling, they sure feel panic. Whatever they feel, they’re sure protesting, resisting.

All life may be related. On earth anyway. Mostly. I believe that life could have been seeded onto the earth from space. It could have happened more than once. It could happen daily. If all life in the universe is related — no proof either way, though it’s certainly easier to think of it as related than as not-related: once you see relationships. Nevertheless, here on earth, we can trace relationships among vertibrates. Certainly we are related to the fish: but distantly. We are closely related to mammals such as otters and jaguarundis. Therefore it’s far easier for us to empathize with a kitten and credit it with pain than to feel similarly sorry for the poor bass: who’s just given us the fight of our lives!

Why did my victim break the line first, then yelp a second later? I wish I knew. Could it be that the creature swiftly transferred my hook to some underwater debris, my line broke, the creature felt nothing, then by coincidence, or, because of the creature’s spasm of activity, some other predator bit him on the ass? Or could my creature have felt pain as the hook penetrated but felt worse pain as her struggles relocated the hook’s barb somewhere more vital?

I’ll go with that last possibility.

It’s also a fact that pain hurts far worse after the injury than during. But that’s a time after, not two seconds after. Pain hurts worst when you start to heel.

The marvellous thing is that it’s painless … that’s how you know when it starts.
Hemingway character, dying of gangrene. note

By now there are plenty of pictures and maps of the lakes I mention on-line. For example:

Lake Jackson — air view

Lake Jackson Scrapbook

Bolt Upright Bikini Bosom

2017 04 24 Ten, twenty years ago I’d fish Lake Jackson nearly everyday and many a evening. I’d launch the boat from Veterans Park, motor along the shore going north. First one encounters a few homes right on the lake. Then it gets marshy and the homes are across Lakeview Drive from the lake. I troll those two sections, homes on the water, homes across from the water, using the oars, sometimes dragging a mushroom anchol to slow the drift.

On the occasion I want to recount I was well aware of how routinely the homes on the water were absurdly inflated in price: buy it / sell it: get in / get out. One season the last house on the lake was occupied by a beautiful black woman and her beautiful male child. I speculated that the father was a football player: guy goes to the NFL, makes millions, sets up a family in a vacation spot. I was very much aware of the woman (and the child), she was aware of me: smiled, waved. But I kept my distance, fished the shore line in slow motion, headed for the marshy stretch whether or not the beautiful black woman was present or not.

One day I’m fishing the shore of the houses, knowing that the “football” wife’s section was coming up. I didn’t see her yet … but suddenly I saw something unanticipated: I was aware of a beautiful bathing beauty on the boat dock of the next to last house. I’m a stealth fisherman, like the bass herself: I lay still, I feel the pickup of the lure: clobber! So I’m hiding from the fish, not from the owners (or renters). I judged that this beauty had not yet senesed me sneaking up to her bathing spot. Uh oh, too late, I’m already there. So I speak out, announce myself, give fair warning: “Excuse me, I’m fishing your dock: I mean to be sneaking up on the fish, not on you …” And I see that she’s registered my message, isn’t alarmed, or at least isn’t showing much alarm. She sits up, stands, and I get a good gander: Jeez, what a hip, man what a belly, Christalmight, what a bosom.

And that’s when I noticed: this woman’s nipples are standing at attention, swelling her top, and by god, they’re making imprints like bolts!

Remember the scene in Modern Times where Chaplin goes nuts with a bolt-wrentch in each hand? 

Realize: I’m down on the lake surface, seated on the bench seat; she’s up on the boat dock, up on stilts. She’s low on the dock, but that’s still up on stilts: I looking up at her, taking in her hip, her bottom, her bosom.

Whenever that was, 1992, 1995, I’m still stimulated by the memory. But my most vivid memories are of the lunker bass I caught in that stretch of lake shore: particularly the marsh shore! two bass! more than a dozen pounds each! in one week! The first had to be thirteen pounds! long as my arm!



It’s so ironic. pk didn’t get online till 1995. (That’s ’cause he was so broke from trying to get everyone online in 1970!) pk online is full of quotes, not of the main reading of my life, but of my recent reading. Thus there’s little John Donne, little Yeats, little Shakespeare … not much Twain, hardly any Tolstoy, not much Illich or Fuller either. But lots of yesterday’s movie.

From my first IP account I went out of my way to add lots of Bateson. I paraphrase lots of Illich, refer to some Fuller. Today I plan to go out of my way to look up a little Hemingway.

2013 05 16 Remembering that hook set that launched a feline scream brings me here today to fuss with pix and so forth: and it occurs to me: what if the “cat” that took my wacky lure was a nursing mother? hunting round the clock to produce enough milk for her kittens? Maybe it wasn’t a kitten, maybe it was the mother! Ouch.
But then I just read that jaguarundi’s hunt in the day time, I’d been told they were night hunters: that daytime hunting was over-time. It might help if I’d dated the modules and the sub-stories. But that’s expecting too much for such as me.

Stories by Theme


About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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