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It was a calm, typically gorgeous Cedar Key day and my buddy Fred and I were fishing off Atsena Otie. We’d boated a few non-descript fish when my line telegraphed a somewhat different pull - nothing aggressive or nibbling, just a steady pulling which resulted in a small two-foot-long ray coming aboard.
Originating from the North, where skates and stingrays also abound, I immediately ID’d this catch as a harmless “skate” and therefore clamped this nuisance between the inside of my upper thighs to keep it immobile while I unhooked it.
I suddenly felt a puncture about an inch from you know what, followed by an increasingly intense pain. I instantly knew this was no skate, but a stingray intent upon using its defense mechanism - a poisonous barb upon a dumb and careless me.
Our trip ended with a hi-speed run to Chiefland, punctuated with urgings to my buddy of “Faster, faster, I’ll pay the ticket!” After a tetanus shot and much sympathy, the pain was still there and would be for many hours.
End of story? Not quite.
Years later in a boat with three others, Mike hooked a stingray and I immediately ID’d it and took charge as a “pro” at handling this creature. As I reached for his line to bring it aboard, I foolishly came too close to the thrashing, and Bingo, I felt the barb tip entering my left hand joint, followed up by a very severe and all too familiar pain.
Stupid? No, very stupid!
Another swift trip to Chiefland, where a young and understanding doctor followed up the tetanus shot with an anti-pain prescription which dulled everything.
My advice if bringing a small stingray on board or beach - is to work it on its back, step on it, de-hook it, grab the tail and carefully throw it overboard - or better still, cut the line!