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Plenty of people have discovered the illicit pleasures of golfishing, much to the chagrin of people like Chris, who works at Kendall Golf Club and is quick with a scowl when the subject comes up: "We have ponds on the course and, yes, there are fish. I have no idea how they got there. They're just there. No, I don't know what kind. I'm a golfer, not a fisherman. And no, you can't fish here."
Among those anglers who ignore the likes of Chris, most would prefer their sport be kept a secret. One local professional guide A who once helped a friend win a big tournament by taking him to a certain hole on a certain golf course to catch a tarpon A puts it this way: "You write a story about this and everybody's going to come out here, and that'll spoil it. Only three or four people know about this particular spot." Well, okay, the top-secret fishing hole will remain a mystery. But you're not supposed to be out there anyway.
"Quite a few guys do it," explains another pro. "Some of them know somebody at a course who lets them go out. I recommend lures, plastic worms, and plugs. Plugs are especially good for both freshwater and brackish courses. Most of the guys I know fish Doral."
Doral qualifies as one of the most glamourous, well-kept courses (actually four courses) in town. And I know for a stone fact that there are fish to be caught there. Last year professional golfer Phil Blackmar, who lists his "special interests" in the PGA Tour book as "fishing," caught a very impressive bass at Doral. "It's something they do on the side," says Doral-Ryder Open tournament manager Charlton Norris. "It's not official official. I just post a notice in the locker room telling them where to take their fish to be weighed A any kind of fish. Blackmar caught an eight-pound bass on the first day of last year's [fishing] tournament, and once they saw that, nobody else brought any fish in, though I know everybody fished. Phil's won it the last two years. Paul Azinger and Davis Love like to fish the eighteenth hole. Davis had two tarpon on last year." This year's tournament was won by John Adams with a three-pound, fourteen-ounce bass. One of his competitors, Billy Ray Brown, was spotted on the USA Network's televised coverage holding up a catch. The majority of pro golfers, it turns out, enjoy fishing, and many of them indulge their hobby during big competitions like the Doral-Ryder Open both before and after they play their rounds. Some even carry breakdown, or "telescope," rods in their golf bags.
For me and my friend Lenny, guerrilla fishing in the dead of night is equivalent to an expedition led by Larry and Curly without benefit of the astute supervisory guidance of Moe. On our first visit to Doral, we manage to actually break a rod, as well as several lines and rigs. We're fishing from a wooden bridge that crosses three water hazards clumped together. Well, we're trying to fish. Without warning the course sprinkler system comes on. Drenching sprinklers aside, there are two good reasons (excuses) for our lack of success. First, the best times for bass fishing are early morning and late afternoon. Unfortunately, almost criminally, golf courses are used for purposes other than fishing during daylight hours. Second, Lenny and I are, at least when in each other's company, bumbling clowns.
Our second trip to Doral doesn't turn out much better. This time we try several lakes and use live shiners, the best bass bait there is. Even so, we can't land anything. But at least we don't break any rods.
While Lenny and I may not exactly prove the point, the truth is that golf-course fishing is pretty easy. One of the best anglers I know, Eddie Bustamante, grew up fishing on and around Key Biscayne Golf Course, and one outing with him does prove the point.
After rigging some rods with light line (six- to eight-pound test is best; pros can even use fly gear), filling a freezer baggie with lures and leader line, and grabbing a flashlight, we're out the door. We park off the Rickenbacker and walk into the woods bordering the fairways. A creek runs through here, serving as a moat, but we find a fallen tree crossing it, which we tightrope to get to the other side. It's dusk, so we hide in the woods for a few minutes to make sure the course is clear. Then we skulk over to the big lake near the fourth tee.
Eddie sets me up with a redfish spoon as bait, which I cast far into the water hazard and wait A about ten seconds. Then I feel the unmistakable tug of a fish on my line. Even though it's a solid hit, I can't believe I've hooked up already. I jerk hard, reel a bit, and that's when it breaks water A a big, brawling tarpon that leaps four times, flashing its black-red-gold-silver beauty, running deep and wide between leaps. I reel it ashore, admire its greatness, and release it back into the water near the tee of the fourth hole.