Urban Nature, Banana River Florida

My name is Derek Redwine. After many years of being friends with Jose Wejebe, he recently asked me if my family and I would be interested in doing a fishing show with him. After I picked myself up off the ground, we talked through some ideas. Jose made it clear he really just wanted us to do what we do.

This was very special to us because he wasn't asking us to be a fishing guide, captain, or expert on the river...he was just asking us to be a family and show him how we like to explore the outdoors and pass on our passion on to our child.

I guess a little background is in order. We live in Merritt Island, Florida on the Banana River (near NASA where the Shuttle launches from). We own a graphic design studio which focuses on the marine industry and we have a little place on the river where we raise our 9-year-old son Alden. Our passion in life is spending every possible second on the water together. Obviously we love to fish, surf, crab, shrimp and camp. Before owning our design studio I was a professional charter boat mate. After having our son Alden we hoped he would share in our passion for the ocean but instead of thrusting Alden right in the middle of our obsession we started him out slowly learning and respecting the outdoors from the bottom of the food chain up.

I think you have to decide, are you taking your child fishing for yourself or are you taking them fishing for "them". We started him off just pointing out nature and spending as much time outdoors, on the boat and at the beach with him. Then gradually we got into the mode where collecting small sea creatures or photographing a new species became our new addiction. Basically we started fishing for "experiences" and I think once you start to really explore your closest surroundings you notice it's a much bigger world then you ever thought. Soon Alden developed his own passion for the outdoors and moved himself up to hunting sport fish and asking to go on fishing trips on his own. In my opinion, I feel itís important for kids to take "ownership" over their hobbies.

As our fishing trip with Jose neared, of course I was nervous, soon we would be fishing and exploring with an icon of sport fishing and the outdoor lifestyle. I excitedly got my tackle together and called my friend Brandon to use his skiff so that we would have more room to spread out. I called another friend Mike to run the camera boat. This was a key element for me to have my regular fishing buddy running around the river doing what we usually do together.

As expected with over-anticipated fishing trips, bad weather showed up with the cameramen - James and Steve. Our first day was spent stuck in my normally productive canal. You guessed it, the small normally voracious tarpon were lock jawed...they would not come to play till long after Jose had left here and arrived safe and sound back at his home in the Keys. Juvenile snook and other species, which haunt our canal estuary, were replaced with insulting catfish.

Day 1 Ė This would go down as one of longest days I have ever spent on the water...although we had fun and marine life poured out of the mangrove islands to make their TV debuts...let's not forget it IS a fishing show... fish would be required to make this legit.

Day 2 - Optimism grew as we were able to get out in the Banana River. Soon we were finding life. Skipping jigs and Gulps under docks produced schoolie redfish and trout. After some time, Jose was ready to fish his way...on the poling platform. Could this really be happening, Jose Wejebe was poling my son and me around in our backyard. As the sun warmed, the redfish started to appear. Alden wasn't always anxious to catch them in the most orthodox ways. One of the more horrifying moments (I mean memorable moments) came as we were poled within range of a very large, fat happy black drum on a shallow flat. I laid what I felt was an enticing cast out in front of him with a Black (Vader) Gulp. As he started a slow descent on my stinky bait, my son decided it would be more impressive to maybe snag him in the back. A perfect cast from him straight across his back with a very large yank sent Mr. Drum running across the flat for his life... Jose remained calm and collected and I thought to myself he really works hard to make all this look sooo easy when you watch it on Sunday morning.

Later that night we celebrated our day with a feast at the local Mexican joint El Tucan. As we exchanged stories, we talked about a local fishing bum "Antanas". When I say local fishing bum, I mean it with respect, but come on he's 15, lives on the river and does nothing but EXPLORE the river in his little tin can he calls a johnboat. Over the years he has shared so much information with us on where stuff lives in the river and what to catch them on. He spent countless hours teaching my wife, son and I how to skip baits under docks and most importantly how to appreciate the small part of the Banana River as though we lived in the Bahamas. Jose mentions bringing him on our last day of fishing. A phone call later and I was nervously excited what the next day would bring.

Day 3 - Mike (camera boat operator and local guide) chimed in that he thought we would have a weather break and we should go for the glory. We slid south out of my canal to pick up Antanas. As we rounded his canal we saw him flipping his long "surfer dude" hair anxiously awaiting our arrival with rod, soft baits and some leader material in hand. As we loaded him up and headed off to a nearby flat the wind died out completely and the sun chased any sign of a cloud away. Antanas gave us a half nod to the direction he would like to go... and I followed. As we got up to the flat Alden decided sight fishing would have to wait till after he had a little nap. Jose took up residence on the platform and I joined my fishing buddy Antanas on the bow. Funny how fishing can bridge such large age gaps, 8 to 80, you can have this strong bond with someone.

We poled in search of some "breeders" which often make their appearance in the shallow waters of the Space Coast. Within 30-40 minutes we saw a heavy push of fish moving inshore of us. Antanas and I bantered back and forth "you make first cast...no you make first cast." I second guessed myself and stepped off the deck to rig a tried and true live shrimp. The fish skirted around the super skinny... a little on the sketchy side. Jose told us he thought we needed to follow them until they got into some deeper water. Soon our shot came when we found "tailers" with a bit more water over their backs. We both fired off casts... my live shrimp fell a little short and Antanas' presentation was quickly scarfed up. We were collectively "stoked"... As we chased our quarry Alden arose apparently with dreams of netting gobies cause he grabbed his collection net and ran to the bow. At this point I have to see the situation through this kidís eyes. He is invited to go flats fishing with Captain Wejebe... the flat slicks off... the sun shines down on a large school of happy redfish, he executes a perfect cast, hook set and fight and now my WELL rested nine year old is chasing him around the bow with a bait net. Jose asked Antanas how he was doing..."cool dude" he replied, followed by a cracked whisper to me "Please dude just get my fish". This was his moment. I politely asked my son to sit and put up the bait net in a way only a dad would ask. Honestly after viewing this whole scene through a 15 year oldís eyes I was nervous to land Antanas' fish. The last thing I wanted was to have the line part on my watch. I asked Jose to come down and get it... I was refused.

The fish came up to the side of the boat I grabbed his tail and we all sighed a little relief. We were excited...this fish made good TV. I think even the poor camera guys took a breath at this point. As we took our photos and passed out congratulations I asked Jose if he was ready to go get another. He said nah..."nobody wants to sit and watch us beat up a school of large redfish." I thought this was a cool lesson for Alden.

We cleaned up and headed to some local canals to fish for other species. Snook, Black Drum, Trout, Bluefish and Jacks kept us busy for the rest of the afternoon. As we headed back to the house to share our fishing stories with my wife Cory and Antanas' family I couldn't help but to think this would be one of the coolest experiences I would ever be able to share with my son.

There were some other great moments, but youíll just have to tune in to Spanish Fly to see for yourself!

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