First Night Tarpon Trip Of 2015

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We are full on into the 2015 fishing season.  It’s long days on the water through the next few months and not much sleep.  Early morning starts, leaving the dock in the dark to get the morning tarpon bite and fishing well into the night when tarpon are most active.  By the time I get home, eat some food, shower, unwind and get to sleep (not necessarily in that order) its 12:00-1:00 in the morning and awake again around 4:00 am. Fishing for tarpon at night is a ton of fun.  I went a couple nights ago for the first time this year with my buddy Scott, who is the Yamaha mechanic at Garrison Bight Marina where I keep my boat. Scott had taken me grouper fishing back in December and I thought I could repay the favor with a quick night tarpon trip when he was done working. About a week removed from a really cold spell, daytime highs in the low to mid sixties and a record breaking low temperature of 49 degrees for a couple days, the wind turned southeast and it got really warm and sunny.  This in turn quickly warmed the water back up to the mid 70’s just in time for the full moon.  The wind was forecast to lay down to under 10 mph, which it didn’t, but perfect for a nighttime tarpon bite. We set out about an hour before sunset.  I stopped at a couple places where the tide was still running out, but no tarpon.  The flats were dry and the tide was starting to rise where I was planning to fish for tarpon.  I only brought a couple tarpon rods and left the crabs back at the dock.  After not seeing any tarpon roll or marking any for a while, I was sort of regretting not having a permit rod on the boat.  We had perfect conditions for tailing permit. I was determined to find some tarpon and as it goes with tarpon they have a remarkable tendency to just appear, seemingly out of nowhere, when you’ve been searching for them for what feels like hours.  Tarpon are also good at disappearing when you’ve been surrounded by them for a couple hours. It was getting close to sunset when I finally marked a school of tarpon laying on the bottom.  I idled around to set up on them and they were gone, uuuuggghhh.  So, I went further along the channel until I marked another school that stuck around for us. We did a couple drifts casting lures but no bites.  Just as the the sun was about to touch the horizon one tarpon rolled.  Finally, something positive and I knew now it was only going to get better. I staked off on the side of the channel where the tarpon were coming up.  They were getting more and more active as the light fell. Unfortunately, they were staying just out of our casting range. I tried drifting again which worked out as far as getting close to the fish, but still no bites and they were starting to feed on the small baitfish we could see flicking at the surface.  We set back across for another drift and the large school of tarpon was gone. It was now dark and we hadn’t had a bump.  I went back to where we first started, thinking the tarpon were just moving down the channel.  I turned the motor off and we listened. The wind had dropped a little so it was quiet. The water was calm and the bright moon was up, high enough that we could see and hear any tarpon roll or bust around us. A couple minutes after shutting down we could hear them just down current of our position.  I idled along the shallow flat and staked off.  As soon as it got quiet those tarpon got back to work busting baits and rolling.  We were surrounded by feeding tarpon where an hour ago there was nothing.  Now I was happy, knowing it is only a matter of minutes until we are hooked up. We were both casting across the channel through the frenzy when Scott’s lure got hit.  “I’m on” is all he said calmly.  His fish made a short run, jumped a couple times and threw the lure.  Now we were having fun, enjoying the moment.  It was on and we were gonna jump a bunch of tarpon... or so I thought!! A couple of casts later my lure got hit by a smaller tarpon, 40 pounds maybe, which I managed to keep close to the boat.  This thing jumped five or six times and wouldn’t come off.  I just like getting the eat and a jump or two so I can see it, then have it come off. I could personally care less about actually landing a tarpon, especially a big one.  My fish dashed away from my skiff toward the middle of the channel and the hook pulled. Whew, thank goodness, back to fishing to jump some more. We managed a few more grabs in the next 20 minutes or so and the tarpon stopped what they were doing.  It got real quiet with only an occasional roll.  That was it, they were done and so were we.  I put away the rods and headed back to the dock with the bright moon lighting the way, missing all of the crab traps except one, that miraculously did not get wrapped around my prop and cut off.  By my calculations, that crabber gained one trap and a few bucks with what was inside!!


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