Going back to 2001 Sebastian Inlet along Florida’s East Coast has been a favorite saltwater fishing destination for me. It is arguably the best fishing locales in the Eastern United States.
The inlet connects the waters of the Atlantic with the waters of the very large Indian River. It is a very narrow man-made inlet and with every tide change, large numbers of sea creatures move back and forth between the sound and the ocean.
The narrowness forces the population to become very concentrated so throwing out a hook and line immediately before during and after a tide change can net you anything from a small baitfish to something that strips the line off your reel and swims off without you ever seeing it. The giants of the shallows come to the inlet several times each day to gorge themselves on the offerings.
Recently I spent the afternoon with a long-time friend who often fished and camped with me at Sebastian, and elsewhere along the coastline. We got to talking about some of our experiences and I related something I witnessed on my last visit there. My wife, myself, and two of our grandchildren were on the way to Miami for a Caribbean cruise and I decided to drive to Sebastian Inlet s they could see some of what I had been talking about for years.
We were headed towards the park going north on highway A1A when we suddenly witnessed a very large black cat running across the road ahead of us. We all saw it and we all let out some version of WTF was that. When we arrived at the park office I found a ranger and reported what we’d seen. We were told that our eyes weren’t fooling with us and that we had in fact seen a jaguar like feline called a jaguarundi.
Jaguarundis are more common to South and Central America but they do show up in small areas of North America, including Florida and Southern Texas. They aren’t as large as a jaguar and come in several colors. The one we saw was a dark gray leaning towards black and including the tail was five or six feet long.
I have no knowledge of what the jaguarundi population of Sebastian State Park is but as I told my friend, all the time we camped the only threat we knew of was raccoons raiding our coolers.
I just consider myself fortunate to get the chance to see on, regardless of how fleeting it was or that I failed to get a picture.