By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
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By Kyle Swenson
Le Jeune Road near Miami International Airport. A right turn loops around, allowing access to a service road that leads past the Sheraton Hotel and practically right onto the fairways of Melreese Golf Course. A water hazard prevents parking directly in the line of soaring Titleists, but across the canal lies the green of the fifth hole where the balls land, providing a slight diversion while Zap and I do what we came here to do. Which has nothing to do with working on our chip shots. We're here to golfish.
"I don't know for sure if there's fish here or not," says a man named John who works at Melreese. "'Course, fishing's not allowed here anyway. No, I haven't seen any fish. The fertilizer and other runoff probably damages the water." Thanks for the info, John, but we're busy right now.
"You know what, bro?" Zap says as we survey the canal by the fifth hole. "These fish are used to seeing golf balls swim by. Wait'll they see a nice, fat, fake worm."
There are other (fishing) holes at Melreese. Zap and I recommend you drive around to the 37th Avenue side, where you can find easy parking and access to the course. We didn't hook anything in the canal, and we're not sure you'll catch bass in any of the lakes, but we think you ought to try anyway. Whatever your approach, all you need is a rod and reel with light line and a lure, live bait, or the trusty purple worm. A modicum of patience, a bit of stealth, and you're golfishing.
As far as I'm concerned, there are three types of golf courses around Miami: freshwater, saltwater, brackish water. Some have fish A a few are actually stocked A and some don't. "We have freshwater lakes," explains Charlie at the Fontainebleau Golf Club out on Flagler Street. "They were stocked originally. There's bigmouth bass A I've seen 'em dead on the side of the lake. People fish out here, but I wouldn't eat anything from these lakes. Wormy fish. I've had problems with wormy fish. See, the water's too warm. But for sport, it's okay. I don't see that many dead fish, but there is the runoff of fertilizer that would make the fish bad to eat."
Okay, so we'll pass on the wormy bass. But Zap, whose real name is Carlos Gonzalez, has got a strong urge to golfish, so we're off to Coral Gables, where the majority of acreage seems to be devoted to golf courses. We're not about to give up yet. Zap is a big believer in catching as opposed to just fishing.
Near the grandfather of local courses, the Biltmore (built in 1925), we pull Zap's truck up next to a couple of kids skateboarding in front of a house. They look like models for a politically corrected Rockwell: Tom Sawyerish white kid with freckles along with a handsome black kid right out of Cosby land. "C'mon you guys," Zap and I say, "we know you know how to get to the best fishing spot on the course." The kids are reluctant to talk, playing it dumb. "Fishing? On the golf course? What do you mean, sir?" What we mean is the Coral Gables Waterway, which cuts through the Biltmore and wanders all across the course. With a little more cajoling it spills out. The Tom Sawyer kid who didn't have a clue suddenly says, "Okay. Go around those trees there, down that little road, and turn right at the...."
The five-gallon bucket we had filled with ice and beer is close to empty by now, and the sun is setting hard and fast. So Zap and I simply walk through the entrance, by the clubhouse, past the genteel folks in polyester swinging sticks at little balls and paying good bucks to use this wonderful chunk of rolling green for something other than angling. We don't belong here, and it's not just because we're obviously not golfers A we're also violating a fundamental rule of the game: covertness is essential in guerrilla golf-course fishing. But at this point we don't care.
An older man who works at the Biltmore gives us the lowdown, but only with the same reluctance as the Rockwell kids:
Old guy: "Can't fish here. Nope, can't do it."
Zap: "Yeah, but I bet you know where there's some fish in here."
Old guy: "Couldn't tell you if I wanted to. 'Course, if you went over there to the Bird Road side A all kinds of fish in there."
Zap: "Excellent. Anybody fish here?"
Old guy: "Told you can't nobody fish here, not allowed. Now, there was this one fellow who'd come out here on the lakes and catch a mess of bass and bring 'em up here for the employees and just give 'em to us to cook up."
Zap: "How'd he fish it, which lake, what bait, what time of day?"
Old guy: "Why you askin' me that? Plugs, just pluggin' right over there, in the early evenin'."
We park on Bird Road next to a sign that reads NO TRESPASSING and try some dead-shrimp baits in the waterway, without luck, although we do get a few bites. That's enough to keep us going, and so we drive Zap's pickup around the Gables looking for more fair fairways. But the Granada Golf Course has us stumped. We can't find a water hazard anywhere. "Bro, we better slow down on the beers," Zap counsels. "We've been around this thing three times and I haven't seen a lake yet." (We later learn it's true A there are no lakes, not even little ponds, on Granada.)