You never know what you’ll catch in Florida.
Recently, a few colleagues rather assertively invited themselves to fish with me, which was just fine because they’re great anglers and company. We ran north out of Jensen Beach toward Fort Pierce on the Indian River Lagoon in search of trout, snook and pompano. Each spot yielded a fish or two, including trout, jacks and a bluefish.
About halfway to Fort Pierce, Dr. Justin Grubich, a bonafide marine biologist and world-record holder, made a cast toward the edge of a flat with D.O.A. C.A.L. shad. Something thumped it hard, but “fought” its way back to the boat with all the vigor of a clump of grass.
Justin took a very respectful step back after bringing “a huge stomatopod” into the boat with a gasp. The scaly tailed mantis shrimp (Lysiosquilla scabricauda) had a death grip on the lure.
You learn a lot fishing with marine biologists. And it just so happens that Justin's expertise is the mechanics of marine species. Friend Sharon McBreen and I started peppering Justin with questions about these savage predators.
It turns out that this animal is one of the most amazing predators on earth. They have one of the largest brains of all crustaceans, and are actually capable of learning tasks. Their compound eyes allow them to see ultra-violet light wavelengths, and other things we can’t see.
These raptors also boast one of the fastest strikes in the world. They feed on hard-shelled organisms, primarily crabs. And they can fire that claw with the force of a .22-caliber bullet -- the claw can move about 45 miles per hour, in water. They’ve been known to break aquarium glass. And when some species strike they strike so hard that the cavitations cause an explosion of light. (For a great video showing them in action with a funny presentation by Dr. Sheila Patek, click here.)
Needless to say, in the unlikely event that you catch one, use needle-nose pliers to release it.