I have to admit, this series on the scariest wildlife encounters was inspired by my own meeting with a sea monster. Don’t laugh, but I was terrified by a manatee. Sure, sea cows are normally docile and they have a cute face, but these beasts weigh up to 1,300 pounds and grow to over 13 feet long. As my story will attest, there is a reason to fear manatee encounters.

My Spine-Tingling Meeting with a Manatee

It was one of those early summer mornings at Florida’s Indian River Lagoon: already sultry-hot and nearly windless. Just the hint of a breeze barely moved my Hobie Outback as I tied a leader to my main line. The world was quiet and still. At least I thought it was quiet and still.

THE AUTHOR On the lookout. | Photo: Doug Olander
These days, your author is always on the lookout for manatees. | Photo: Doug Olander

The explosion came with no advance warning. One moment I was sitting in serenity, focusing on my knot, and the next minute the water under me erupted like a depth-charge, lifting my kayak into the air. Miraculously, the kayak landed upright with me inside. Lagoon water showered me and I sat soaking wet.

In the chaos, I managed to catch a glimpse of a grey tail as wide as my kayak. My heart pounded and my hands were shaking.

I took stock and found that everything remained in the kayak except my dignity. The sea cow’s powerful tail ferociously churned the water, sending silt from the bottom into the air and onto my kayak. Definitely not a plus for my spinning reels. But I cleaned up as best I could and went on to have a pretty good day of fishing.

Manatee are one of the smartest animals, capable of understanding discrimination tasks and show signs of complex associative learning. | Photo: shutterstock.com
Manatees are one of the smartest animals, capable of understanding discrimination tasks and showing signs of complex associative learning. Terrifying! | Feature photo: Shutterstock.com

Mostly, I came away with a new respect for these huge, gentle and normally lethargic animals, and a new rule for kayak fishing in their waters: I do not want to sneak up on a manatee.

Watch Out for Manatee Encounters

Other kayak anglers have been less fortunate after being capsized and losing gear. You can be sure I keep a sharp eye out for signs of sea cows and give them a wide berth.

This article was first published in Kayak Angler Issue 45. Subscribe to Kayak Angler and get the magazine delivered to your front door. Download the Kayak Angler Magazine+ app to seamlessly glide between the digital archives, the latest articles and videos.

 


Manatee are one of the smartest animals, capable of understanding discrimination tasks and show signs of complex associative learning. Terrifying! | Feature photo: Shutterstock.com

 

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