Does Florida offer the Fountain of Youth?

By Sam Piatt - Contributing Columnist

It’s been about 500 years now since Juan Ponce de Leon dropped anchor off the Florida coast and marched inland searching for the waters he had heard would keep him forever young.

But instead of finding the Fountain of Youth, he invited an early death, dying from arrow wounds suffered in a fight with the Indians.

Some senior citizens today sell their homes in southern Ohio and northeastern Kentucky and retire to the land of palm trees, golf courses, and big largemouth bass.

Some of them have been friends or acquaintances. And I plan to join them, just as soon as one of them writes back to tell me he’s found the magical waters.

I still like living where I can experience the four seasons.

I’ve visited Florida several times, but two weeks is as long as I’ve ever stayed. I get homesick.

February is about 10 days away. I consider it to be the most miserable, weather wise, of all months here. I find myself thinking nearly every day of hooking up my boat and heading down Interstate-75.

I’d wouldn’t mind killing February fishing for bass on the tributaries of the St. John’s River. It was 1977 when my father, Bruce, brother-in-law Ross Wright, and I drifted down Spring Creek, casting small jigs toward both shores, and caught so many crappie that we couldn’t hold them up for a photo without the ones on the end of the stringer dragging the water.

It was nice, too, to come out of the cabin in the morning and pluck a fresh orange right off the tree.

In 2002 I had a nice little cabin on 5,000-acre Lake Marian, south of Orlando, where I could step out of my cabin and into my boat. It wasn’t much of a chore to fill a cooler with black crappie.

One day I talked my wife, Bonnie, into going out. She can’t swim and has a fear of big water but loves to catch fish as much as anybody. I believe she’s the one who inspired that old ditty that goes:

Mother may I take a swim?

Yes, my darling daughter.

Hang your clothes on a hickory limb,

But don’t go near the water.

We motored across the lake and into a patch of reeds and water lilies. She dropped a minnow down and hooked one of the biggest white crappie I’ve ever seen. As she pulled it into the boat, an alligator raised its ugly snout right near the boat.

Five minutes later I dropped her off back at the camp.

All we saw was its nostrils and fierce eyes, but when I heard her describing the incident to a friend back home, I heard something about, “…a monster twenty feet long.”

One day Soc Clay and I climbed on a plane in Huntington. There was snow on the ground and the temperature was below freezing. I was amazed when, about two hours later, we stepped off the plane south of Orlando into sunshine and 80 degrees.

Florida is noted for producing bigger bass than any other state. The winters are warm and the fish gorge themselves year-round. In the early days of bass tournaments sponsored by the Bass Angler’s Sportsmen’s Society (organized in 1967), they held a tournament on Rodman Pool. The first day, two pro bass anglers checked in 20 largemouth that weighed a total of 240 pounds!

Maybe fishermen have found the Fountain of Youth after all. According to those words found chiseled on an ancient, unearthed stone, God does not subtract from the allotted span of Man’s life those days spent at angling.

Let’s see, I need to make sure the utility bills are paid up, turn off the water so the pipes won’t freeze, get in a month’s supply of prescription drugs, see if there’s enough money in the savings account to pay for gasoline….

By Sam Piatt

Contributing Columnist

Reach G. SAM PIATT at [email protected] or (606) 932-3619.

Reach G. SAM PIATT at [email protected] or (606) 932-3619.