Tarpon fishing comprises long stretches of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer panic.
A typical Tarpon Dawn actually begins about four o’clock in the morning.
So, the boat’s in the water by 5a.m. and we no-wake to the Venice Jetty before firewalling the throttle and heading to the particular place I prefer to drop anchor and wait to ambush tarpon. By 5:45, we’re rigged ‘n ready and the sun hasn’t even started yawning over the eastern horizon.
Sometimes the migrating tarpon cooperate and show up quickly, as they did one day last week when Mike Harde nailed one in the gloam on his first cast. Other times, they can be maddeningly absent.
And other days they can show up soon and often, and turn away from every delectable offering as if they’re two-year-olds spurning mashed squash.
Take the past few days, for example.
PJ Perea, who’s an editor, writer, and photographer with the Wild Turkey Federation, brought his wife, Tricia, and sons Dennis (12) and Phil (who celebrated his ninth birthday on the water), down from South Carolina. This was a reward for the boys, who’ve been getting straight-A grades in school, and it was in the planning stages for more than two years.
I’d been keeping a handful of blue crabs alive in a big holding tank in my garage for more than a week with the help of an aquarium aerator, and managed to score a few more from Capt. Ed Johnson at Dockside Store. Figured we were all set.
Didn’t figure the tarpon would be so fussy!
To cut to the chase, after being so totally surrounded by tarpon that I felt like Custer at Little Big Horn, PJ finally got a 70-pounder to suck in a crab. Unfortunately, the hook didn’t bite or the tarpon had an iron jaw or who knows what? It got away.
The second day was just as frustrating. Fish after fish kept popping up, but always in the wrong place and we never did get a hookup.
I took Lance Avery, who lives in Chicago and creates different recipes of bacon-sausages for restaurants, to the same spot the following morning.
Lance was using flies instead of crabs. But, for a while, the results, or should I say non-results, were the same.
Well, not exactly the same. Lance was tossing a pretty long line, and got four bumps but no joy, in pilot jargon, while a mess of tarpon cruised all around us. Until a fat boy of about 140 pounds inhaled a fiber-body mullet pattern and started busting loose for parts unknown.
Unfortunately, that’s precisely what he did. Bust loose. And head for parts unknown.
I’m not going to tell you exactly what Lance said in that moment of shocked silence when it was obvious that fish and angler had parted company. Instead, let me just well, I think you understand.
Now the weather’s ugly and the tarpon are somewhere in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico,
Both the weather and the fish are supposed to be back in fine form by the weekend.
Oh, by the way, I do still have a couple of days open before I head back to Michigan at the end of the month to teach fly casting for the DNR, chase H. limbata in the dark of night, and get Tug ready for grouse season. Lemme know if you can break loose for a few moments of sheer panic. It’s fun. Really, it is!