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By bus and by bike he came to fish

Air conditioning contractor and bass angler Kit Brown traveled from Orlando to fish in saltwater and fulfill his part of a fishing-trip swap with this writer. He capped it with a big snook and several days of bicycling.

By MIKE SCARANTINO

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 24, 2000


PORT RICHEY -- Imagine taking a bus from Orlando to Port Richey and then making a bicycle your main mode of transportation for the next five days -- mainly just to go fishing.

Meet Kit Brown, whom I met at the Lake Toho marina in Kissimmee. He loves to fish for bass and meet people; that's how we first got together. We agreed to swap fishing trips.

Aside from a few trips east to fish for trout in Mosquito Lagoon, Brown hadn't spent much time fishing saltwater. I don't get much time to fish for bass so it was a perfect arrangement.

Born in Dunedin and named after legendary cowboy Kit Carson, Brown is an air conditioning contractor. Even though this is his busy season, an invitation to fish for large, breeding snook was too much to turn down. We set a date for his trip west, but what I didn't know was how he planned to get here.

Brown decided to make it a real adventure. It would span five or six days and cover well over 200 miles, much of it on a bicycle ordered especially for this trip. It is a cross between a beach cruiser and a touring bike with a gel seat for comfort and 23 speeds for ease in pedaling. His adventure began the Thursday before Father's Day at the Greyhound terminal on John Young Parkway in Orlando. After loading his bike into the bus, it was off to Tampa where he would transfer to another bus headed for Port Richey. There he would hit the road pedaling. We planned to fish Saturday morning.

After our day on the water, Brown planned to linger for a day or two before heading south. He intended to revisit his old neighborhood in Dunedin, then continue on to Clearwater Beach before heading home to Orlando.

Saturday dawned with light easterly breezes and a typical summer weather forecast: hot, hazy, and humid with a 40 percent chance of afternoon thunderstorms. Brown fidgeted with excitement.

First on the agenda was finding bait, so we headed south to Anclote Key. There had been a modest but steady supply of baitfish holding on the northeastern corner of the island, and after an hour and a half of chumming and throwing the castnet, we had mustered enough frisky fish to make a day of it. The tide was running strong and it was time to fish.

I turned my boat toward the mainland and headed for a large pile of rocks. When we were in range, I dropped the boat off plane and climbed to the poling platform. We would attempt to sight-fish before setting anchor.

As we made the first pass, we strained our eyes over the rocks and surrounding transition areas, but spotted nothing. Having confidence in the spot, we decided to fish it anyway. That turned out to be the best decision of the day.

People's opinions of what constitutes a good day of fishing vary widely. Brown's was simple: He just wanted to catch one snook. Anything more would make the day a great one.

Not being familiar with the area, Brown asked for help. I made the first cast for him, showing him his target area. What happened next was sheer good fortune.

As I handed the rod over, I felt a telltale thump. Thinking it was just the baitfish swimming, I didn't pay any further attention and turned to get my rod. Suddenly, Brown's rod bent, the drag screamed, and so did he. The big fish leaped and so did my heart.

Brown's first snook was large, and on top of the shallow rocks it headed for deep water on the opposite side; not a good thing. Their reputation for getting free is widely known. I screamed for him to get the rod tip high overhead, and he did while applying pressure.

The big fish turned, he pumped the rod, then reeled with the intensity of a Greco-Roman wrestler. The fish turned back toward us. After one more solid run, the fish turned again for the last time and came to the boat. I reached into its gaping maw and hauled it over the side. We both let out screams of excitement.

Kit Brown not only got his snook but an inshore slam that day that included a redfish and a trout.

I went from having an acquaintance to having a friend, but I think when I go to fish with him I will take my truck.

-- If you have a question or comment, call Capt. Mike Scarantino at (352) 683-4868.

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