Manatees are known as gentle giants of the ocean. But these ponderous-looking creatures are powerful swimmers with the potential to get spooked. Florida angler Ozzie Polit, host of Fishing with the Oz, found this out first-hand when a manatee gave his kayak a strong shove. He shares the footage with a warning for paddlers and a reminder to respect local wildlife: “The goal is to catch inshore slams, not manatee slams. Lesson learned.”
Inshore Angler Slammed by Manatee
Polit is a retired angler based in Northeast Florida, where his “eyes have been opened up to a whole new world of inshore kayak fishing.” After growing up freshwater fishing in the Midwest, Polit’s new home waters are in and around St. Augustine. On this day he launched from the Nocatee Paddle Launch. The area features pine flatwoods and salt marshes—and manatees.
He describes the lead-up to the encounter as follows: “As I entered this creek channel I noticed something stir in the water. I didn’t get a good look as the reeds obscured my view. I just thought it was a fish rolling.”
“At the moment the manatee slams my kayak,” Polit recalls, “I am not sure what hits me. My initial thought is either alligator or manatee, but after I had a moment to catch my breath I realized it must have been a manatee.” His boat is jostled, but thankfully it stays upright.
Lessons Learned from a Florida Manatee Meeting
“That sure made my heart race a little bit,” Polit says as he pedals away from the spot. How will he avoid such a situation in the future? “The next time I see something stirring in the water that I don’t immediately recognize,” he says, “I will stop the kayak, turn or go into reverse.” That’s good advice to follow in Florida’s fertile inshore waters—and other places where manatees roam, too.