Quest to catch a Tarpon…

Yesterday was one of the most incredible days of fishing I’ve experienced.. I’ll always remember it as the day I caught my first tarpon.

To make the occassion even more memorable, my Dad was with me, fishing for the week. Tuesday afternoon Dad sat out in front of the house we are renting, sipping on a cocktail, and catching pinfish on a bait rig. We woke before light the next morning, packed the boat, and headed to a spot I thought we might be able to find some tarpon.

After a 1/2 hour boat ride with the sun rising behind us and rain falling all around us, we pulled up to the spot. Just as Dad threw the anchor overboard, I looked up and saw about ten tarpon porposing, and heading straight towards us.. about 200 ft away. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I had dad pull the anchor back up, and I began rigging a rod.. which was hard because my hands were shaking with tarpon fever!

As quickly as I could I grabbed a pinfish, and cast out in front of the pod of tarpon. Only seconds went by before line began flying of my Shimano spinning reel! I wasn’t sure how long to wait, after all, other then seeing Flip Pallot do this on TV, this was totally new to me. I closed the bail, and the line tightened… and then went loose… The fish dropped the bait.

At the same time Dad had gotten his rig ready, and had made a good cast.. his line tightened, and then started pouring off his reel. He engaged the drag, and just as I thought we were about to hook our first tarpon, the line went loose… I then noticed the pod had moved about 150 feet out and past us. Dad started the engine and idled after them. I quickly got a new pinfish rigged up and got back to the casting platform. The tarpon had not shown themselves for a couple minutes.

My heart was pounding in my ears.. I was afraid we just missed our chance. Then there they were, just behind us, and 60 feet out. I heaved the live pinfish 20 feet out in front of the tarpon, and left the bail open and raised the rod tip high. After just a few seconds, the line began spooling off the reel. I gave it a little more time than the last fish, then shut the bail. The line tighted again, but this time the drag began to scream.

After a short run the Tarpon took to the sky, and put Dad and I in shock. No way could that giant fish be on the end of my line! No way could we possibly land it. I knew the odds were not with us. But the longer I was connected to that magnificent beast, the worse I wanted to land him.

After a long sweaty battle, where the tarpon swam back and forth through a maze of crab trap lines, he finally gave up, and came to the boatside. I heard it was tough to grab and hold onto big tarpon, but when I got my shot, I went for it with total commitment.

I wasn’t going to get this far and have him pull loose before a picture because I botched the landing job. He thrashed hard with his tail as I grabbed his lower jaw, and I could see how people could take a swim at that moment. I held on for dear life, and he settled down. After a few pics, I held him next to the boat, with the tide flowing into his face. He revived fairly quickly, and with one kick of his tail, he left my hands, and ended one of the most incredible fishing experiences of my life. Thanks to my Dad for all the help and for putting up with my franticness during the battle!