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Outdoors columnist Luke Ovgard recalls his time fishing in 'Florida Man' territory

COURTESY PHOTO: LUKE OVGARD - Me with a peacock bass I caught in Florida using the tiny pink ultralight outfit I found on the side of the road

HOMESTEAD, Flo.— As a teacher, I'm constantly on the lookout for add-ins to my curriculum. A thoughtful quote, a video clip that illustrates a principle from class or just a unique icebreaker can really go a long way to make a good lecture great.

One of my favorite icebreakers is one I call "Florida Man," and I admit, it is not entirely my invention. No, this is something one of my seventh graders (now graduated) told me during my first year of teaching, back when I taught middle school English. He told me that if you Google "Florida Man" and add your date of birth, you get all sorts of fun headlines.

Naturally, we tried it, and it was a big hit. I saved it for future reference, and again used it for a class I now teach with my friend, Bob Chambrose. The class is called "Business Publications," wherein we produce our school magazine, the Blue and Gold. Given students are turned into photojournalists for a few months, the "Florida Man" icebreaker is a solid lead-in. COURTESY PHOTO: LUKE OVGARD - Nuptial male (spawning) butterfly peacock bass

To date, my favorite Florida Man tale will come up if you Google "Florida Man July 30" — at least, as of the time I write this. Florida Man doesn't sleep, so a better headline could've moved up Google's hierarchy since then. Just in case, I'll tell you what happened. Essentially, a guy robbed a convenience store with a small alligator and took only a 12-pack of beer. Though even Stephen King's twisted mind couldn't make this stuff up, it's true. As reported by the New York Post: "A man made a beer run into a Florida convenience store carrying a live alligator with its mouth taped shut." It's a riveting read, but essentially ends with the man taking a 12-pack of beer, packing up his portable alligator and leaving peacefully.

So Florida Man stays winning in the eyes of pop culture even if not in the eyes of the law.

A few years back, while I was on Florida Man's turf, I rounded a corner, I noticed a half-dozen people fishing in a single spot. Normally, that would drive me away because the last thing I want when fishing is other people around, but I was intrigued. Here was not one real-life Florida Man in its natural habitat, but six!

I pulled over.

Something about me must've triggered a hasty retreat because four of them just up and left. Perhaps they sensed my relative normalcy and didn't want me to feel left out? Who knows.

What I do know is that seconds after arriving, I'd found a broken baitcasting rod with a fairly nice reel. I set it aside amidst a shocking amount — a potpourri, really — of garbage and went to the water.

My first thought was "that's a peacock bass!" My second thought was "Why am I not fishing?"

One cast later, I was indignant because I hadn't hooked it, but two casts later, my pity party ended.

My first peacock bass wasn't big, but I didn't care.

I probably should've messed around with the other species there more, but I was too hung up on peacock bass. I asked one of the last remaining Florida Men to take a picture for me, and though he was a bit skeptical given the size of the fish, he obliged.

Then he told me he'd broken a rod on a peacock earlier and was planning to leave. Begrudgingly, I asked if the broken rod I'd found was his, and he said "Yes! I almost forgot." Well, there went what would've been the best baitcasting reel I'd ever owned. Ugh. Sometimes I hate having a conscience.

My consolation prize was a small pink spinning outfit nearby that nobody present claimed — whether because they were ashamed to own it or actually didn't own it, I'll never know.

What I do know is that as I began using that little pink ultralight outfit to catch tiny fish in roadside ditches and canals teeming with all sorts of foul bacteria, I probably looked like I'd become a naturalized Florida Man, so who am I to judge?

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