A strange encounter

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When my fishing buddy, Don Holland, invited me to join him and his wife, Doreen, for a fishing trip, I jumped at the chance and met them at the Cedar Key launch ramp.  With the weather forecast we looked forward to a great day fish or no fish. (Do you really believe that?)

Don’s 28-foot Sea Craft powered by a 150 hp Yamaha made short work out of reaching 30-foot depth via the North Channel.  We anchored near several crab trap markers and were soon into an abundance of just legal seabass, grunt, a few puffer (my favorite for eating) and a slew of very  game and aggressive small mouth grunt.

Interestingly, I caught what I thought was an unusually large fish which turned out to be two seabass caught on the same hook!

After several fun-filled hours we were heading home when we came upon an unusual sight.  There appeared an unusual surface activity and a bobbing crab trap marker which intensified as we approached.  It seemed that something big had become entangled in a marker rope.  The closer we came, the more agitated this “thing” became with much spray and attempts to escape were done. We suddenly came upon the biggest “turtle” we’d ever seen.  Its shell was easily five feet long with three rows of bony ridges front to back, which from a distance looked like the back of a gator!  

With utmost respect for its aggressiveness, size and massive beaked jaw we were able to cut the line to the trap and free the “thing.” 

We hauled in the trap which contained several spider crabs plus three small stone crabs which we released.  Don said he would be able to contact the trap owner since the ID was printed on the trap bottom.

Question: How long had this creature been schlepping a heavy trap before we came along?

In any event I missed the opportunity to film this “strange encounter” having had my Olympus in my jacket pocket.  What an idiot!

I later checked my Florida fishes and reptile guide which identified it as an loggerhead tortoise.

Frank Molitor