When guys have been here more than once they tend to want to try to repeat a very special trip unfortunately that very rarely happens. Fishing is very much about being in the right place at the right time and having the fish you want feeding as well. The last time Lee was here we had one of those very special days offshore tuna, shark and Lee has had some of the biggest amberjack I have ever seen. This trip the weather gods have not been very kind but the other day it calmed out and in the dark we headed out the 26 miles to the tuna grounds with very high hopes. We were the first boat there well before the more horse power than brain cells guys but as it got light very few birds not good. Try as we might not a sniff of a tuna, top water, mid water jigs Lee even put a live bait some 500 ft down. So as we often do in the Florida Keys plan B being a long way out means we can cover a lot of ground on the way back and we are in the hight of dorado season. Some one saw a lone small bird sitting on an old paddle ( hope the guy got back with the other one ) and sure enough the long rod went off and just for compensation it was Lee’s. A fish that size has a one way trip with Lee and soon a very colourful and tasty dorado was in the cool box. Then just one more small fish on the way back to the permit wrecks and a sight I have never seen before a near 70 ft big game boat at anchor right in the middle of the permit grounds just where we wanted to drift. Again it was Lee who managed by his standards a small amberjack not the day we had hoped for but that’s why they call it fishing not catching.
Trying some underwater stuff with the Go Pro and what better than a good old nurse shark, why o why did I not try it out on Lee’s dorado don’t you just like getting old brain cells just slip away.
The 2013 tarpon season still continues on very strong indeed we have had tarpon every morning now for over a month still wish they took better in the day hitting my alarm at 3 am is starting to tell then when you have a 100 lb + fish in the air it is all worth while. This year we have a near 200 lb year class at 7 mile bridge all about 170 to 180 and very strong fish even played as hard as you can on 30 lb line fights are all over an hour. Alan had one of these fish a few days ago, hook up was on a bank a long way from the bridge but as most tarpon seem to know lots of bridge concrete is the way to get off a hook so after half an hour we were between the bridges with a very big angry tarpon. After an other half an hour of going through both bridges many times and making hard unstoppable runs at the concrete the fish was ours by the boat and leader touched with an audience from the old 7 mile bridge one very happy and tired Alan.
This year we have been asked by the Florida Wildlife Commission to take part in the tarpon genetic recapture study, if you are interested in tarpon research go to www.myfwc.com then to tarpon research and see what it is all about. In basic terms we take a DNA sample from the tarpon and send to FWC with basic information then if that fish is ever recaptured they can compare the two and learn more about tarpon. We also had a long talk to the officer from the FWC who told us that at the next meeting the hope to change the rules on taking photos of tarpon and allow a quick picture to be taken of the fish out of the water. Their research has shown that if a tarpon is out of the water for no longer than 60 seconds it comes to no harm as it does have the ability to get oxygen from air as well as water. What they have found the most important thing is to revive the fish after capture and many fish which have just been to the boat after a fight die with not being revived this can take over 10 mins or longer by swimming the fish with a moving boat.
We also had our smallest tarpon ever the other day a fish barely over 20 lbs, very strange must have decided to follow the thousands of fish early in its life a very cool pic.
Tarpon still on fire 3 am starts still suck but last three mornings 2 for 3 , 3 for 3 , and 1 for 3 may be the best for 10 years and no sign of it slowing down. More pictures from Daves two weeks serious fun in the bay the wrecks have been on fire all grouper over 200 lbs are fun. Every year Leslie comes she continues to impress I think she is now our top lady angler more than a match for any fish.
I had a long chat today with a lady from the tarpon trust who gave me a lot of new information about the fish a bit of homework and a long blog will be next.
First pic Brian doing what he loves big fish back to the boat 200 lb + grouper
Second pic a nice shark which made the mistake of taking Leslie’s rod no chance !
Third pic a fine barracuda from a wreck for Brian
Fourth pic yet another cobia from the bay
Video clip a fine jumping tarpon for Leslie
While at this time of year it is mainly about tarpon most of my guys do like to experience the full offerings the Florida Keys has. We are very lucky to have a boat that is just as happy 30 miles offshore as it is in less than 2 ft of water on the flats. Dave, Leslie and Brian certainly had some stunning fish on their two-week fishing holiday I think it is best just to let you see some pictures with brief descriptions.
The stingray you see with Brian was kept for bait, a fantastic shark bait and I have seen more than one hammerhead with stings in its head. They were also used for mock scallops years ago and from this one I cut scallops from the wings and had them for breakfast and I must say they were very good nothing like scallops but a very tasty meal.
First pic a good dorado taken about 20 offshore on a live pinfish poor old pinfish everyone likes to eat you.
Second pic Leslie doing what she is good at on a wreck in the Gulf a hard fighting cobia.
Third pic Brian ( stingray ) Ironman with his regular stingray for the holiday
Dave with one of the finest eating fish we have a yellow jack.
Sorry about the lack of blogs from the as we are here for two weeks we will only do tarpon every other day to it is so good can we go every morning. Well at Fish the Dream fishing holidays you make the agenda so every day I sett my alarm for 3 am and off we go, in all fairness it has been so good so far this year I can see why. Tarpon fishing certainly has its highs and lows yes we have had fish every day bar one and fish back to the boat as well but we have had sad mornings as well. One morning we had one of the strangest tarpon fights I have every had we hooked up on a very large fish just as it got light and this puppy knew all the tricks in the book. First it went in and out of the bridge piles both old and new at 7 mile bridge as it was on a training run, then it went under an other boats anchor as it was still on it decided to do the shallow water bit just to scare the boatman and off to the bone fish flats we went. In less than two feet of water all I could do was trim the motors right up and pray. Then it tried the moral support bit and was joined by up to an other 20 tarpon, it was just amazing in very shallow water to have a mass of tarpon in front of the boat and one hooked up. All this action brought the attention of the shark and a massive shark went into the fish I don’t know how but it missed ours but it did then we went into deep water. Well after 2 hrs 29 mins and taking us nearly 7 yes 7 miles and towing my boat at over 2 miles an hour the line broke I think went the shark attacked it hit our line but it all ended in tears.
Now is than one happy angler from the lows to the highs Brian has been after a big permit for years so it was very fitting to tick his box on the last morning and what a fish a solid 24 lb a true trophy fish. As you all know by now I am a crab man when it comes to tarpon and we do very well with them and one of the other fish that likes crab is permit. At this time of year they are making their way offshore to spawn and they all have to go past the bridges so if they see a tasty snack on the way why not.
The 2013 tarpon season is turning out to be one of the best I have ever had in the Florida Keys we have had fish to the boat every day bar one crab is the killing bait yesterday was 2 for 3 and the day before 2 for 5 big 100 lb plus fish and most fights over an hour. New comer to our fishing holidays Steve joined regulars Dave Leslie and Brian and a ton plus tarpon on his lap was number one on his wish list. So we all sat down and went through just how mad this tarpon fishing is, fish on then rest of the guys have to wind in, rods out of the way, start the boat, throw the pick, back down to the bridge, spin the boat, get the angler with the fish on to the bow, spare angler to get the torch, keep the rod high but not to high, bow to the king when it jumps and all this goes on in the dark at 4 am. To say Steve looked a little worried was an understatement but day one came and we were at 7 mile bridge and Steve had a tarpon rod in his hand then guess what his float went under and it was fish on. Well he did very, very well it helped to have all the crew seasoned anglers and may be not perfect and he missed a few bows but in about 1 hr 20 mins the fish was in the boat and on one very happy anglers lap.
At 68 in long with a girth 39 in it came out at 136 lb what a first ever tarpon and at 1 for 1 as we say you cant get any better I still dont think just how lucky Steve knows how he has been. I still think ever angler should have one money shot of his first tarpon and I slide the fish over the side, hook out, quick pic, measure for an accurate weight then back and swim fish for as lonce ng as it takes to get it fully recovered. Since 2008 to do this in Florida you must have a kill tag I would never kill a tarpon and buy swimming the fish I think it might even have a better chance than just the hook out. Video clip sorry an other tarpon at the boat Brian with yet an other 100 lb it will play not sure what is going on with Vimeo will try and sort out.
While we at Fish the Dream are having a very good start to the 2013 tarpon season to me and most of our guys on fishing holidays the Florida Keys are so much more than those big herring. Not sure why we are catching more tarpon than others here, I am fishing the same way I have done for over 10 years I use crabs, I only fish very early in the morning, I use mono and I still like J hooks. With a float as soon as there is any movement you hit hard and all of are tarpon are lip hooked as they say if it aint broke don’t fix it enough said. Well last week we had our 113 species to the boat one of the guys had a stunning fish to the boat and I had no idea at all. Back at the house we soon identified the fish a pudding wife wrasse yes you read that right a pudding wife wrasse with a name like that I assumed that there was a good story but nothing. I have asked all the guides and all the dive shops and spent for to long on the internet but to no avail so if any one knows please tell me.
Last fish of Alan’s week was a good fish for him an other right fish wrong rod a jack well over 10 lbs on the lightest rod on the boat what a fight and well done Alan. Video is an other ton plus tarpon by the boat I am getting a little better with the head cam and now can even edit a bit. Next up with the Go Pro will be some underwater filming not sure how that will go but I must get some shots of the tarpon run at Bahia Honda went hundreds of fish run the bridge.
To say tarpon fishing is a learning curve is a massive understatement, no one this week had ever fished for tarpon before so it was all very new. One you have a very big fish, two you fish in the dark , three you have to follow every fish and lastly shark do like tarpon as well. Last week was a week of lows and very high highs, first day we soon had a tarpon on and did all the tricky stuff and were soon in open water and all was going well just the introduction you want. Then a massive run from the fish which normally means only one thing the tarpon is trying to get away from a shark but it only ends in tears shark wins and we no longer have a fish on. Day two we all decided to do a full day on tarpon at Bahia Honda bridge where you can fish all day just one bite then despite hundreds of tarpon rolling not an other bite all day so of we went bottom fishing to have some fun. Then a morning off we normally just do one morning tide for tarpon but the 4 am start every day is a bit hard core, and a very good day indeed shark to 300 lb and grouper to 250 lb and more important smiles back all round. Next day was very strange tarpon on very early then the fish did something I have never seen before it went straight to the shore and hugged it for nearly half a mile. Then it went into a dock and after nearly an hour it went under a big game boat and broke us off, why I don’t know maybe the shark were there not sure but in nearly fifteen years of tarpon fishing in the Florida Keys I have never had one do that. Next day our luck had to change and it did fish on and after some 50 mins fish in the boat and 60 in x 42 in a solid 126 lb well done Glen. Things even got better on the last tarpon day fish on early and a very dogged fight hard long runs and big jumps but John had the measure of this monster fish so big we could not get it on his lap for the money shot and at 72 in x 44 in it was a fantastic 174 lbs, pain for over an hour but what a result.
Video clip is me messing with a near 300 lb bull shark it may look a bit mad but I have been doing this for a long time and I still like to get the hook out if I can. A few days off then back to early starts and those mad 100 lb + kippers bring it on I still love it.
In the nearly 10 years of doing fishing holidays here in the Florida Keys I have witnessed some amazing fishing feats from Lee’s amazing over 2 hr shark fight to last years over 3 hr tarpon fights but yesterday what happened was right up there those. Alan and his friends Glen,Colin and John were after their first tarpon but as they arrived late we decided to have a day in the bay just to get them familiar with the lay out of the boat. We were having a fun day with shark, jacks and mackerel when Colin spotted a big fish in the chum slick unfortunately the rod that came to hand was a light mackerel rod with just a leader of 30 lb and a 3/o hook but bait on a short cast. The big fish was a shark near 100 lb and yes it was hungry and yes it took the bait and so started a long and to be admired fight. With an older anglers soft hands and the saying slowly, slowly catch the monkey Colin just worked away yes the fish was boatside but I knew I could not touch the 30lb but lady luck was on our side and I managed to grab the wire and the fish was in for thew money shot.
First morning on the tarpon just two takes a bit late getting down there then one fish on for a very long time only to end in tears. In a very strong tide this fish did not want to leave the bridges and to put it mildly was a pain in the ar**. eventually the fish went with the tide ocean side some long powerful runs then from nowhere a shark attack then no fish on. All the party were shocked and amazed that an over 100lb fish was a meal for a very,very big shark.
As I sit here in Northumberland watching an other light flurry of snow I am packing the bags for my trip back to the Florida Keys for the start of Fish the Dreams 9 th tarpon season. These fish to many people sum up the Florida Keys and an over 100 lb tarpon to the boat ticks so many boxes. In fact when surveys have been done the tarpon is right up there as the top game fish in the world, they are big we have had them over 200 lb, they jump, run like nothing else, and can be very hard to keep on the line. Maybe that is why we all love and hate the silver king but once you have contracted tatponitis there is no known cure, you just have to take the medicine every year. Tarpon facts still blow my mind, they are prehistoric and have been around for over 100 million years, living for over 45 years and start spawning at 10 years old. Large females can produce over 12 million eggs and spawn in shore and offshore during there migration thus spreading their young over a massive area. Some days at the bridges the sight of hundreds and maybe thousands of fish just leaves you speechless and numb. We have more than once seen endless shoals offshore just a sight that we stay with you for ever. I was recently given a photo of just what is under you at the bridges wall to wall and top to bottom fish just staggering.
Above also two cracking photos one by me and one by my friend Henry Gilbey try as I might I will never be in the same class as young Henry but its fun trying. So what will happen this year, a bigger fish than 209 lb not sure, a longer fight than 3 hrs 40 mins maybe not but what I am sure about there will be smiles and tears but then that is tarpon fishing bring it on!