Smiles for miles... a birthday party redemption

So my Daughter's buddy was supposed to have a birthday party last weekend. A fishing birthday party! I love this kid. His family made all the preparations, invitations went out, but the day of the party the poor kid got really sick and was throwing up everywhere... so party canceled. Bummed kid of course. Well my wife let me know about what happened and asked if I'd like to take him fishing this weekend... heck yes.
Meet up this morning to a wide eyed, inquisitive, super excited kid. Before we got out of the canal he saw a tarpon roll, knew it was a tarpon, and wanted to catch it... never caught one before. It's going to be a good day I thought to myself.
We ran out and got some bait, and went to a spot I knew would be productive quickly just to get some rods bent and fish in the boat. Caught some ladies, snapper, and catfish for a bit... got some smiles... and moved on... (tarpon in the back of my mind for the finale).
Next spot we quickly got into a couple nice trout and some more catfish. "You ready to try for a tarpon?" I said to the kids.
Quick boat ride, tarpon all over, ended up jumping 3 with two making it to the boat. Man I wish I could bottle up how happy that boy was about getting those tarpon. I love this.
-Mag

https://i.imgur.com/8dyRaFr.jpg

Sometimes you have to break your habits...

First off, sorry for not posting lately. No excuses other than me being lazy. I've been doing a lot of fly fishing, trying to get good at that. I figure in 7 or 8 more decades I might be able to catch a fish once in awhile. For now it's been a struggle. Anyway, back to the topic.
I normally don't fish live bait. In fact, I loathe it. It takes so much of the skill out of fishing and to me it's just boring. Yes, it's a VERY good way to catch fish, but I don't get satisfaction from it like I do with artificials. Also, there's nothing like a tarpon thump when you're pulling a big jig on braid... they hit like they're mad at you like you stole something from them. I love it. But last night... last night was different. There was whitebait absolutely everywhere. It was one of those days where you can feel it bumping into your lure as you retrieved it. I knew fishing would be tough with all that bait around so I reluctantly pulled out the cast net, grit my teeth, and threw the most beautiful Z shaped, almost banana looking pattern you've ever seen. Lol... I had to throw my 8' net because there was so much bait around I knew the 12' would be nearly impossible to get in the boat. The 12' I pancake quite literally 100% of the time I throw it, but that 8' net is typically a half moon at best. I just can't throw it anymore, most likely because I only bring it out a couple times a year. So I laughed at myself after my taco toss that I may as well have kicked in the water, started to pull it back to reload and throw... but it was full. Blacked out both livewells with the worst cast net throw I've seen in a long time. I'm not sure if that's bad luck or good, but we got bait.
Then came the fish. Tarpon ranging from 20-40 lbs, all on 3000 sized spinning gear, 10 lb braid, 30 lb leader, 4/0 circle hooks. We jumped 7, got 6 to the boat, had a blast. At one point I had one on and my guest started reeling his line in... I told him to leave it out so we could double up. We quickly did. So I got my fish off, and he's fighting his, so I start to tie on a new leader. I get tied up and he's still fighting his fish so I throw another bait out back and it gets crushed. So we had sort of two double ups in a row. We stayed for one more fish, caught it, then happily went home after a great night out... live bait or not.

-Mag

6 tarpon this am in 2 hours

Got out this am at about 4 for a great incoming tide, light breeze, and some hungry fish.  There was a metric ton of threadfins out there, but I stayed true to self and just used artificials.  Managed to get 6 juvi tarpon in the air, only one to the boat, and 4 slam hits but missed the hookups.... all in two hours.  Did a little scouting around (unusccessfully) once it was light enough to see.  It's weird, the juvi tarpon still aren't here in the big numbers like they normally are this time of year, but the adults are all over the place already.  My usual spots are normally loaded with mullet but they have been few and far between this year.  Not sure what's going on but I will say I've seen more whitebait/threadfins than in recent years.. A LOT more.
Water temp is 82 in the harbor at night now.

-Mag

10 tarpon last night... almost didn't happen but turned out amazing

Last night was date night for my wife and I.  Kiddo goes off to the grandparents and my wife and I enjoy some time to think and talk about things other than slime and the momo challenge.  Every Friday while the grandparents are in town for winter.  Last night we started date night off like two young love starved parents should... by going shopping at Walmart and a nice take out dinner from our finest Bob Evans.  Lol I mentioned that we sounded like a couple of old hags to my wife with our night and reminder her how much I can't stand Walmart... to which we followed up with watching some tv and calling it an early night.
Before I got ready for bed I checked my wind forecaster one more time, knowing that there was a great outgoing tide about to start and some big tarpon in the area... and the wind was down.  Conditions were right.  Shrimp are moving and the big girls should be eating.  Looked up at the wife who already knew what I was about to say, she wished me luck, and off I went.
45 minutes later I'm almost to the spot, my 5 kt SSW wind is blowing an easy 15 straight S making the ride out in the dark a little livelier than I was expecting, but we were staying the course.  I'm not kidding when I say the second I shut off the motor to start using the trolling motor it starts to rain lol.  I don't care, we're here, I KNOW the fish are going to be here... I'm staying.  
And it was amazing.
5th cast in I hook on a solid 80 pounder.  Fought for about 15 minutes then hook pulled.  Hogy black HDUV eel 7".
10 minutes later I hook another, much bigger but shook free after 3rd jump... the only one I bowed on (have I ever mentioned bowing is overrated when using heavy jigs?)  Same Hogy as before.
Retie a new Hogy on, silver this time, first cast I jump another one.  This night is getting amazing.
Next fish took probably 40 minutes before the hook up but I got this one to the boat after a short 25 minute fight.  Didn't get any pictures because I didn't want to take longer than necessary with her considering I had gotten sharked 20 minutes earlier and wanted to get her revived and on the way... plus I don't like my hands in the water longer than necessary in the big shark waters at night.
This spot started to slow down with action on the side scan so I moved around a little and found some more.  The wind had laid down at this point and it was just a light intermittent drizzle, not that I would have left if the opposite were true.
New spot, side scan lit up, new fish everywhere... big tarpon blowing up on topwater bait.  
Ended up jumping 6 more tarpon, mix of Hogys and Baitbusters.  Got home at 5AM with a big smile, sore hands from the fights, and some great memories.

-Mag

13 tarpon last night... game on

This early season warm front has been driving me nuts this year.  Normally I have the juvi tarpon dialed in and can consistently go and catch 6 to 12 on the right conditions... but this year has been tough.  I've been getting 1 to 5 on most trips and even skunked on one.  Not the way I like to start things off, so I stopped looking at my tarpon journal from the previous years and just started from scratch... did A LOT of scouting and finally it paid off.  Got 13 tarpon in the air last night on a big outgoing tide.  Bait everywhere and the ole girls were chewing all night.  Even got a little silver/gold treasure as a gift from one of the kings.

-Mag

The resident tarpon are eating and will all winter

Wanted to see what the fish are up to since we had the cold front pass through and the temps weren't too low last night so let's give it a go.  Got up to the spot at 6:30, water temp 64... tarpon everywhere.  These are the resident tarpon that I target all winter... they're mostly 10-30 pounders with a couple of big lazy fatty girls mixed in.  We didn't get many hits today but the ones we got we hooked up on.  Ended up going two for two... one was a good 30 pounder that fought great on the light tackle... the other was about a 10 pounder.
I caught a trout and figured we might go for the inshore grand slam while we were at it... just needed a snook and a redfish... so we headed to a spot I knew we'd get a few snook from.
Got up there and boated a 25" snook and then a fat 35" girl.  The pics don't do this fish justice.  Need to get those arms out!  

Well I didn't plan the slam all that well because my hit or miss (usually miss) redfish spot was way in the other direction and we were running out of time... ahh well.  Next time.

Stay away from the red tide, find moving water, structure, water that warms up fast and you'll find fish.

-Mag

Couple tarpon, a bunch of snook, and one big lesson

I had the opportunity to take a father/son out fishing a couple nights ago, and it really set my head right.  I wasn't expecting a banner night or anything, and with the cold front, a near full moon, and still feeling the effects of the red tide the odds were stacked against us.  It started on the dock when I met Gabe and his son Josh.  Josh was a very polite and bright eyed young man, and you could see the excitement in his face.  I always love when people bring a positive attitude with them on the boat, and this boy brought enough for all of us.  As I was talking it up with Gabe, I caught a glimpse of Josh and how excited he was.  We weren't even fishing yet, and he was just all smiles, soaking in the smell of the water, the sound of the 2 stroke, and the breeze of the boat ride... things that I take for granted so frequently without giving them a second thought.  Then when we loaded up with finger mullet after a throw of the cast net I again caught a glimpse of his excitement, and it was starting to rub off on me.  I started to look around instead of just looking ahead.  I started to 'get it' again.
We arrived to the spot and almost immediately hooked up... just a stinking ladyfish I thought to myself.  But to Josh it was a whale.  It was the biggest, baddest, hardest fighting fish he'd ever had on his pole.  And he was loving it... and I was loving the lesson.  I love the opportunity to hang out with kids... they always show you a shimmer of a reflection of how you used to feel about things... and sometimes we need to be reminded of that.

-Mag

This is why we fish...

Guys I've been slacking.  When the red tide really hit us in mid June I pretty much stopped fishing regularly.  Charters weren't getting booked, the water was disgusting, and honestly I just didn't feel like being on the water at all.  It made me sick how nasty the water was.  I'd go out a little here and there with some mixed results, but I was just going through the motions.  This past weekend I took my daughter out fishing and I watched her catch 7 small mackerel out of a big pod we found off the beach.  I sat there watching the smile on her face and it reminded me why we fish.  Birds were dive bombing, mackerel were skying out of the water, and the cute little freckle face girl was just hootin and hollerin and grinnin from ear to ear.  I needed that reminder.  
So today I decided to go fish a good outgoing tide with very light wind and it's the day before a no-moon... perfect recipe for a good night... Within 5 minutes of having the baits out we hooked up on a 120 lb (conservative) tarpon.  Rodney the rod holder did a great job of setting the hook and we chased her around for 55 minutes before the hook pulled.  I wish I could have gotten that one in but I got tired of fighting it and really cranked the drag down... 10 minutes later the hook pulled.  All good though... we know there has to be more so we head back about a mile to where we started.  We jumped 8 more tarpon, got one to the boat, and mixed in a 36" and 28" snook in between the tarpon.  It was non-stop action during the outgoing, and I bet we missed more fish than we caught.  The tide turned and with it the fish decided they were done.
As we were fishing tonight I realized how happy we were.  We were hootin and hollerin and grinnin from ear to ear... and that's why I love this.

-Mag

1 for 6 tarpon tonight... what red tide?

Haven't been posting much lately but I wanted to chime in and let you guys know that there's still some tarpon hanging around.  Not a ton, but there's some.  They're tougher than normal to get to chew, but they'll still take a jig from time to time.  We jumped 6 juvis tonight ranging from 10 to 25 lbs.  All super fun on the lightweight gear we were using.

-Mag

5 for 16 tarpon the past two trips

Hooked up with a couple of repeat guests last night for a huge outgoing tide in the harbor.  Threw the whippy stick at em most of the night and ended up going 3 for 10 on the juvis and one small adult... maybe 60-70 pounds.  They'd turn on for 30 minutes and we'd jump a few, then turn off for an hour, then back on... definitely some fun action with the fly rods though.

Got home, made a repair to the boat in the dark, got my healthy 3 hours of sleep and hit the local spots for another 6 tarpon with a couple of first timers.  These were a mix of live bait and artificials.  Again, no big ones to be found (they're all down at the pass), but had a great time with the light tackle on the kiddos.

-Mag

3 for 11 tarpon... and a glowing pod of tarpon in the night (not kidding)

Yesterday evening we headed out to Boca to see what was going on, and when we got there, there were 60+ boats out there all huddled up.  Goodness... I was quickly reminded why I don't fish Boca.  We sat for a few minutes to assess the situation and then all of a sudden 3/4 of the boats started heading in!  It was a miracle... or at least the tournament had ended.  Thank goodness.  So we slid over in the cut to see if we could see anything, and we were quickly greeted by tarpon.  Thousands and thousands of rolling tarpon.  The bottom and side scan were just stacked with them.  There was seriously 20' thick of tarpon on the bottom... it was quite the site.  We didn't have any bait so we started throwing artificials... and before you knew it we were hooked up.  Fought it for about 30 minutes while a googan wouldn't stop getting within 20' of my boat, and eventually our lines tangled.  Another reason why I really don't like fishing the pass.  Then he actually tried to fight the fish into the boat.  Well we know how that one went... the line broke and no more fish.  Guys, if you're new to this and find yourself fishing the pass... keep an eye out for boats that are fighting a fish nearby and give them some space.  If your lines happen to tangle, and it's happened to all of us, please cut your line.  It's the nice, southern thing to do.  Back to story.... Hooked up a couple more times but it got dark on us and the wind was stiff out of the east which made it pretty sloppy out there, and that's not a good situation for the 20' Action Craft flats boat, so we decided to head back towards Englewood and hit a couple spots on the way.  The beach side was very, very smooth with the East wind, so we went that way instead of through the intercoastal. And here's where it gets weird:  As we're cruising back my friend hits me and says "did you see that?".  I say see what?  He says "that glowing in the water... it was a big blob of glowing".  So I cut it and turn around, just sort of wishfully hoping we stumbled on a huge pod of tarpon.  As we're heading back to the spot we both see it and my goodness if it isn't a half football sized pod of tarpon making the water glow!  So we follow them and throw artificials at them and they just won't eat.  We do this for about 30 minutes before we finally decide to throw a crab at them.  (we dipped some while in the pass).  Crab was in the water maybe 5 seconds and the whole area in front of us suddenly glowed like somebody turned a night light on, and we were on!  Drag screaming, following a glowing ball of fish in the dark, chaos and a ton of fun.  Fought this one for about an hour, got the leader, and with a final shake she came undone.  
So what are the chances we can find the glow ball of fish again?  As bad as our chances were, I kid you not, we found them.   three more times and three more fish.  All adults, all amazing glowballs in the night.  The really cool thing was that you could tell you were hooked up before you could feel it, because this field of tarpon would light up a bright flash right before the line went tight.  It was one of the most memorable things I've ever seen.  I wish the video would have turned out but unfortunately it didn't.  

-Mag

2 for 2 tarpon this am

Had some boys from MA down today with a tarpon on the bucket list.  Some good fishermen from up north tuned in on monster blue catfish and stripers and they had the silver king in their sights.  Got out at first light and immediately saw some juvis rolling around us.  Not a ton, but just enough to keep it interesting.  Had a few good hits but couldn't hook up, and then Russell got this 30 pounder to the boat.  It was a pretty crazy fight on pretty light tackle, and it was everything they had hoped for.  We had some crazy blow ups on mullet a while later with a crazy chase around a dock, jumping on it, whipping the rod under the pilings, then jumping back on the boat... but unfortunately that one got off.  Bummer, but memorable.  We decided to extend the trip a bit and headed to another spot and almost immediately got another one to the boat... this one a bit smaller around 20'ish.
All in all... great time with great guys.  Water temp is bouncing back from the cold front and the migration should be in full swing in the next couple weeks.

-Mag

White butterfiles, and 2 tarpon this AM

Finally saw a few white butterflies today... and with the butterflies came a few tarpon to check out the warmer dark brackish water of the peace.  Saw 4 or 5 that went 120+ today... nice and dark from the stained waters.  They weren't having any of what I had to offer though... so I had to settle for a couple juniors today.  Both caught on small jigs.  Looks like one more cold front this week and then we should be home free for the summer.  Bring on the migration!!!

Oh and I caught 4 of the biggest jacks I've ever seen on this coast.  Big enough that they were pulling drag enough that I was hoping they were 50-60 pound tarpon... ahh but the headshake.

-Mag

0 for 1 this am... bait all over

Took out Dave from CO and a few friends this am for some full moon, cold front tarpon action.  Still a little early in the season yet, but I've been seeing some good groups here and there, and I figured with the cold night they'd bunch up in a few spots.  Well we found em, and there were quite a few, but man they just wouldn't chew for anything.  Dan jumped a 10-15 pounder and had a couple other good hits, Dave had a hit or two but none in the air.  John hooked a blue crab.  And a stick.  Oh and the anchor.  Lol....  had a great time with the crew this AM and would have stayed out all day if I could have.  Let's get this cold front over and start the migration... there's bait all over... the tarpon won't be far behind.

-Mag

4 for 9 tarpon this am... Early Christmas for us!

4 for 9 tarpon this AM... all juvis

Best Xmas gift ever... 9 tarpon just a few days before Christmas. All juvis but I'll take it. Almost all were caught on live bait at various water levels. Caught 4 pretty dang big jacks also... maybe 12 pounders? Great time this am with pretty much non-stop action. We even had a double at one point. Big thanks to Michael for considering me again for a tarpon charter and a great job going 4 for 9 on the poons!

-Mag

This is why we keep a fishing log... 2 for 2 on adult tarpon this AM

This is why we keep a fishing log... 2 for 2 on adult tarpon this AM.

I was checking back on the past few years' fishing logs and noticed a little trend I hadn't seen before. Set my alarm for 3AM, and headed out. Conditions were perfect... light/no wind, strong outgoing tide, and a couple others I'll keep to myself.  Got out to the spot and within 5 minutes I was hooked up on a solid 80 pounder. Of course he wrapped me around a piling and I thought for sure he was a goner... but opening the bail and a little outside the box thinking got it out from the piling to continue the fight. Got him to the boat for a quick release after about 25 minutes. This one was caught with a black Hogy original rigged Texas style with a 7/0 circle hook through the nose and a 1/4 oz bullet weight.
Caught my breath and idled back up to the spot. Saw a few rollers and made some good casts but no hook ups right away... until about 10 minutes later... this time I got into a 120 pounder that went clean through the pilings for me... thank goodness. Got her to the boat after a good 30 minute fight with quite a few jumps. I love these tarpon when the water cools off... they have so much more energy than when the water is 94 degrees in August. This fish was caught with a purple Hogy Pro Tail paddle in 2 oz.

Here's a situation where keeping a log really paid off. It only takes 5 minutes of your time when you get home from fishing to write down a few notes. Wind, recent temperature fluctuations, tide, moon, time of day, location, technique/lures used... anything of note.

Good luck out there... there's still tarpon around... for now.

-Mag

1 for 2 tarpon and a slob snook tonight

1 for 2 tarpon tonight and slob 38" snook

Decided to see if this little warm front moved the fish back to where they were a couple weeks ago and went into Charlotte Harbor tonight in search of some tarpon. Go to the spot on a great incoming tide and 72 degree water temps. Pretty calm NE wind. First cast with a purple baitbuster and landed a ladyfish. Not a tarpon but I kept it for bait. Couple casts later, same thing. Couple casts later, same thing. Well I have 3 ladies in the baitwell now and a dead baitbuster (totally surprised it lasted 3 ladyfish... normally it's only one ever since they started making the lures out of wet paper bag). So now I know there's ladies here and I don't want to catch any more, but I figure tarpon might be eyeballing the ladies (if they're around)... so I switch to a big ole white Hogy paddle tail on a 1 oz Barbarian jig head. Get crushed about 5 casts in but missed it. Cast to the same spot and get pounded again... missed again. A few minutes later I saw a really big boil on the surface so I casted over it by about 20'... let the tide bring the Hogy back into it... BAM. Tarpon in the air! About a 50 pounder... got a couple jumps out of it but it broke the leader. Dang. Fished about an hour longer until my next fish... a 38" snook that was sitting on the bottom. This thing had a 20" girth! She was a pig. Caught on the big ole' white Hogy paddle tail. Released to go make more big shouldered line-siders.
Maybe 10 minutes later I see another big boil on the surface... repeat the same procedure as before... fish on! This one's a little smaller than the other but still a fun fish. 40 pounder. Fought for about 5 minutes and made a quick release.
Water temps are good, clarity is good, tides are good, catching tarpon and slobs is good... go fishing.

-Mag

12 tarpon today

12 tarpon this am... and we got number 100 to the boat!

Man today was on fire... and it almost didn't happen. Here's the skinny: Got up at a decent time with no plans on getting some mullet since they didn't really work yesterday. Ran out to the spot with nice calm seas. Put out the trolling motor and put it on spot lock and threw some lures for awhile with nothing to show for it... didn't even see a roller... so now I'm thinking the fish moved on to a different spot and I'm going to have to run around to find them. Then another guy pulled up and was about to thow anchor close enough that a good toss could have gotten the anchor in my boat... and he was right where I've been casting for the last hour. So I politely ask if he'd rather just fish with me in my boat since we were so close... and he got what I was saying and backed away 30 yards. Still too close for me but I don't own the spot and I wasn't catching anything anyway. So I'm about to call it and start to troll out of there to see what's in the area when I spot the tarpon party... and they were on it. Got over there and proceeded to jump 12 in the next 3 hours... 2 adults, the rest juvis. One even jumped right in the boat, lol. Broke out the 3000 series Nacsi on a lightweight rod with 10# braid and had a blast with the juvis. All on artificials... and the bait of choice changed as the day went on.

-Mag

8 Tarpon this morning

8 Tarpon this morning...

Got up about 5:30 this am to go get some bait... found a big pod of mullet and got what I needed with a single cast of the small 8' net I keep around for when I'm feeling lazy... like at 5:30 am by myself in the dark.
Ran out Stump Pass to a butter smooth gulf and headed south.
Got to the spot and saw quite a few rollers before I had my first bait on... within 10 minutes the first one was on, and within 10 seconds the first one was off... ha ha. Ended up jumping 7 more and got 2 to the boat. No big ones today... but still a ton of fun. The bite was good for an hour and turned off once the tide turned. Headed home, tried a couple more spots with nothing to show for it.

So that makes 99 tarpon to the boat so far this year, and 389 in the air. Still time to hit my goal of 500 for the year, but if this wind doesn't let up it surely won't happen. Time will tell I suppose.

-Mag

PS... the water is still stained but it's getting clearer by the week... it's actually pretty clear outside of lemon bay... it's just really dark still.

Sorry I haven't posted in awhile... but we're almost to 400 tarpon!!!

It's been a few months since I posted in the reports section.  We've had some good times, some great times (mullet run), and some rough times (Hurricane Irma).  So far this year our tarpon tally is 97 for 381!  That's a heck of a lot of fish!  Although the large portion of migrating fish have left the area, there are still plenty of resident tarpon hanging around (if you know where to look).  We've jumped 5 the past two nights out, and both trips were cut short by the weather.  I still think 500 tarpon on the year is possible but only time will tell... less than 3 months to go.

 

-Mag