Response from "Wayne" about the fishing... and the dropped rod :)

Ha! You are the best! You'd think I never fished before but as I have relived the moment about 20 times over the weekend as my friend Paul has been busting my chops.....Here is what I think actually happened. 

I was standing on the front of the flats boat (Something I'm not used to) and as that first fish took off I was really surprised at how fast and how powerful it was. I was also surprised at how tight the drag was. I also was surprised that the fish almost pulled me off the boat and into the river. So, I decided to reach for the drag to back it off a little. At the same time, that Tarpon took off and again caught me off guard. Looking back on it, I don't think it "ripped" the rod out of my hand. I think it pulled me off balance so much that I was going for a swim. At that point, it was either me or the rod that was going for a swim! I really don't know for sure.

In either case it was a great night! 16 fish on and at least another 20+ bites that never quite hooked up. The next day we went out into the Gulf and couldn't stop talking about how much fun we had the night before. 

One other thing that happened later in the night was my friend Paul fighting a tarpon that hit about 3 feet from the boat. It makes its first jump and almost hits Paul in the face. Paul jumps back like a little girl and it makes its second jump almost hits him again and he almost fell over backwards. It was pretty funny to see a grown man almost get beat up by a Tarpon!

In either case we all had a great time and hope to do it again later this Summer or next Summer when we are in town.

Thanks for the great time Keith!

16 tarpon jumped... and a floating rod?

16 Tarpon jumped... and did you know that Redbone rods float?

Had a charter a couple nights ago and we got into em good... 16 tarpon in the course of 4 hours. They were hitting Hogy 7" and a couple other jigs... the darker the color the better. The real excitement came on fish #1 though... I'm not sure people go into this with a good understanding of just how hard a tarpon can pull... even a juvi. So about 10 seconds into the fight, tarpon #1 lays down the hammer and goes for a screaming run, which is awesome, except that angler #1... let's call him "Wayne"... wasn't expecting it and the tarpon yanked the rod out of his hand. Lol! So I'm in the boat watching a Smoke 50 with Hurricane Redbone go down in the water, I'm about to jump in to grab it but I realize I have the car keys and my phone in my pocket so I just watched the rod go by... then the amazing happened and the rod actually started to float! Apparently there's just enough cork on the handle and it came back up to the surface! So we troll over, "Wayne" grabs it... and I kid you not, the fish was still on! I swear! So "Wayne" starts fighting this fish again and we're all laughing and trying to record it... it was amazing! Probably the biggest roller coaster of emotions I've ever had on a boat lol.
Step 1 - Fish on... excitement! (especially the first tarpon of the night)
Step 2 - Rod in water... confusion (wtf just happened) followed by maybe a hint of anger (I can't believe this googan just dropped my $300 rod in the water!!! )
Step 3 - Rod floating... hope (we might actually get this thing back)
Step 4 - Rod in hand ... relief
Step 5 - Fish on!?!? ... OMG THIS IS THE CRAZIEST!!!

Lol... I wish I had the whole thing on video. Good times.

Oh and I disassembled and greased up the Smoke 50 and all is right with the world. It needed a cleaning anyway. 


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Caught my first tarpon on fly!

Caught my first tarpon on fly!

Last week I had a couple guests on the boat and they did an awesome job with the tarpon on fly... so of course I had to break down and go buy a fly rod. Now typically I'm the type that will buy once, cry once, and get good gear... but in this case I wanted to make sure it was something I liked before I blew a bunch of money on it... so I bought literally the cheapest fly gear known to man. I got a 10wt Ugly Stik (I wish I was kidding) rod, and a Okuma SLV... got them both for under $100 shipped. Lol. Well anyway... now that you know I'm using pretty lousy gear, I got to use it tonight. Here's the setup:
Very light winds. Good thing because as you can imagine I'm lousy with a fly rod. Water was very smooth... glass minnows all over... tarpon slurping them up on the shadow line... perfect for me! Started throwing it around and it started to come back to me from when I fly fished for smallies up north. About 10 minutes in I got a good hit and jumped my first tarpon! Probably a 15 pounder but whatever... I'll take it. Then another 10 minutes I jumped another... maybe a 30 pounder. I'm starting to get the hang of this I think... then I got this 40 pounder to the boat. Happy days out on the water tonight!


Oh PS... I did jump another 5 using spinning gear. Didn't land a single one. 

7 for 21 tarpon in 4 hours!

7 for 21 tarpon tonight... 4 for 7 on fly

I'm seeing a shiny new 10 wt in my future...
We fished the bottom half of the huge outgoing today and just wrecked the tarpon. From start til stop we averaged a fish in the air every 12 minutes. Non-stop laughing and hollering all night. All the fish were juvis from 30-45 lbs but man on light tackle they're a blast. I was a little concerned what the front was going to do with all the fish... but it seems that it made them hungry. Most fish were hooked on Hogy arti's tonight, with the exception of the 7 jumped on fly of course. We even had a couple of doubles tonight... man what a blast.
The fly rod was on fire when it was being used... it usually wasn't any more than 4-5 casts before it hooked up... and the landing ratio was about 60% vs 20% on the jigs. I'm going fly rod shopping... I don't think my 6 wt is going to cut it.


56 Tarpon in one week!!! And a young man I'll never forget.

56 tarpon in one week... and a young man I'll never forget

Well this past week proved to be a good one. A new personal record was set with 56 tarpon put in the air throughout the week during 5 charters. We covered a lot of ground... hitting all of the usual spots in Charlotte Harbor, Myakka River, Peace River, Boca Grande, Placida, and more. Some late nights and some double charters ending at 5:30AM. Some early season scouting paid off also as we jumped quite a few tarpon in some not-so usual spots. Hogy lures were the go-to lure this week, but some tarpon were had on shrimp, crabs, mullet, and others. Some days were calm, some of them we got a little wet... ok a lot wet. But at the end of the night we were talking about the drag running and the aerial show we just got done watching.
I will say though, without question, that my favorite charter this week was Tony and his big brother Ken. Tony and Ken were introduced to me through the Big Brothers and Big Sisters club of Englewood, and I had the honor of taking them out this morning and jumping 3 adult tarpon with them. Guys, I'm not saying this to make myself seem like I'm doing something special here because I'm not... but if you can spare the time please consider being a big brother or big sister to a young boy or girl. Tony has an amazing story to share and I feel so privileged to have met him... I hope I was able to show him and his big brother as good of a time as they were inspirational to me. Hug your mom, dad, son or daughter... and share your passions and joys with them... you just never know when you won't be able to do it again. 

Now go catch some tarpon!!!


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11 tarpon jumped

They are getting here in some numbers now.  Two nights ago we jumped 11 tarpon, with 5 coming to the boat.  It was an action packed night with big tarpon slurping up crabs and shrimp all around us.  This was one of those nights I'll never forget.  What a great time.


It's getting warmer!

I was sitting around today after Bob Evans' finest Easter meal... thinking about taking nap #2 for the day (#1 was at the beach with a Corona in my hand).  I decided to see if the weatherman was right about the winds or not and decided to go out to Placida to see if there were any tarpon roaming around.  The weatherman was wrong.  Winds were moderate but from the NW instead of the E like he was showing, so the water was easy to cruise in.  Tarpon were all over... but mostly medium/small ones.  I only saw a few big girls and I couldn't get them to eat... but the others... well they were hungry.  I fished for about an hour with nothing to show for it... then just as if somebody had flipped a switch the bite turned on.  I jumped 3 fish on 4 casts, each of them coming unbottoned.  Then I hooked one and got it to the boat... a 30 pounder.   Then another... this one was a little bigger and made a couple good runs but still no adult.  As I was getting it close to the boat it pulled a little drag, and then I sat and smiled as I listened to the drag ripping out of my reel.  Then I realized that the one in my hand wasn't losing drag at all... it was the one in the rod holder!  D'oh!  A double.  I watched the one in the rod holder to see if it was going to stop pulling drag and luckily it did.  So I quickly released the one on the rod in my hand (roughly a 40 pounder) and swapped rods to get the one in the holder in.  This one was also about  a 40 pounder and after a pretty short fight I had it boatside and released.  Lol... that was fun.  I wish I had it on video.  Ended up going 4 for 8 on the night after starting 0 for 3.  It was a fun night... hopefully tomorrow night is even better.


1 for 3 in Placida, then a skunk, then 1 for 4

Placida proved to be a good spot for some tarpon action last week as we went one for 3 on fish around the 50-60 pound mark during a good outgoing tide.  

This past week's warm front really raised the water temperature and when we had a night with a break in the wind we went for it in Charlotte Harbor... only to be skunked.  We saw a few roll but we just couldn't get any to commit.  Total bummer but unfortunately it happens on occasion.

Last night we had another break in the wind and fished the Peace River, and we were rewarded with 4 tarpon in the air and one coming to the boat.  3 of them were between 20-40 pounders and the one I really wanted to see boatside was around 90 pounds... but she had other plans.  Ahh well... glad to see the fish are still hanging around during this cold front we're going through.



2 big tarpon and a snookasaurus

Had Matt, Eric, and Casey for guests tonight.
Got to the spot and within 15 minutes one adult tarpon was jumped by Casey using pinfish. Thought for sure he was coming into the boat but after about a 5 minute battle another good fish fell victim to the outboard. Makes me want to cry. 
Shortly after that one Matt hooked up on another adult tarpon... this time on a 7" Hogy. He got a few jumps out of him and a couple good runs before spitting the hook. Ahh well...
We messed around for a bit while the tide was dying and didn't do well except Matt hooked up on the fattest 34" snook I've ever seen. (I'll post a pic tomorrow that doesn't do this fish any justice). That girl had some juice and made some long runs... also caught on a 7" Hogy.

Fun night... we were all happy with 2 adult tarpon and a fat snook in March.


5 Tarpon tonight

Decided to go try my luck at Lemon Bay again tonight since it was good to us a few nights ago and it was even better tonight. We ended up jumping 5 tarpon... 4 were 50 pounders and one was about 25-30. We had one of them to the boat and I was about to start to try to grab it but the leader frayed. That was a bummer but it was still a solid 10 minute fight for John's first tarpon. The next one was hooked solid but it ended up jumping perfectly as it got below the outboard and bent the hook as the leader hit the skeg that was already out of the water. That was a tough one to watch but nothing could have been done about it. Overall though we had a blast... 5 tarpon in early March is a hoot. Had one 26" snook, a small 12" trout, a few jacks and ladies also. Great times... tarpon season is heating up. Once this cold front passes mid-week we should be home free for the big migration. Can't wait!


Tarpon Party in the Keys!

Well I took my annual Keys Tarpon trip this past weekend with visions of silver clouding my brain for the past two months. We stay in Key Largo for a long weekend every year around this time with hopes of timing some warm weather and the impending tarpon migration. Well we nailed it this year. Daytime air temps were touching 79 degrees and the water temp was holding between 75 and 77. And there were tarpon. A LOT of tarpon. I won't get into all the play by play details but here's the Cliff's Notes: 
In three nights of fishing we jumped 37 tarpon, 14 were landed. Out of the 37 all but two were over 50 pounds. I would estimate that at least 25 of them were over 80 pounds.
Out of the 37 jumped only one was hooked using live bait. So 36 tarpon were jumped on artificials. 5 of them were jumped using baitbusters and the rest were jumped using Hogy lures. The vast majority were caught on 7" and 9" eels... but a few were caught on 7" paddle tails. Black, white, and purple were the colors of choice in no particular order. The bigger 10/0 VMC Barbarian hooks seemed to have a better landing ratio than the 6/0... especially on the 100+ pound fish.

Tip I learned from this trip: Charge your camera BEFORE you get out on the water. Bring a charger that actually works for the camera you brought.  Sorry guys... all my pictures are terrible. I brought a good DSLR camera with me with hopes of getting some good footage but I failed miserably. 

Shouldn't be long and we will be getting the tarpon migration up here. Can't wait. 


Wait... did I just see a white butterfly?

Wait... did I just see a white butterfly?

I know there's straggler white butterflies that show up from time to time... but I saw one this weekend. Oh... and about 150 tarpon roll too! 4 hits but not a single hook up.  I had some beautiful bait too... thought for sure I'd be getting dragged around by a tarpon for a while but no dice. Bring on the warm weather!


A little action this week

A little action this week

We had some good tides this week and the weather held pretty steady (except for the Thursday winds).  Fishing was "OK" but nothing exceptional.  During trips this week there were several snook caught in the low 30" range, and a few slot sized ones... but no real big numbers.  We did jump a couple of tarpon one night, so that's always a treat.  Water temperature has been holding around 69-72 degrees.  I can't wait for spring, the warmer waters, the white butterflies and the impending tarpon migration.  Just a few more months!

Solid Snook Night

Solid snook night

Well the cold front chased the winter time tarpon bite away... for the night anyway. Since there weren't any tarpon around to do the magic silver dance for me I tried to find some snook to pull some drag... and definitely had my share tonight. Ended up with 10 snook on the nose before I called it quits. 4 between 27 and 29", two 30 inchers, and one at 32". Something a little weird tonight also... I think I hooked into a smallish goliath grouper. I never did see it but it certainly wasn't a snook or black drum (by the way there's black drum all over the place right now)... The fish just sort of lollygagged around like it didn't even know it was hooked... then once in awhile it would pull 10 or 20 yards of drag like nothing... then repeat. Eventually the hook pulled. Anyway... had a fun night even without any tarpon goodness.


9 tarpon and 11 snook set the water on fire tonight!

The water was on fire tonight with all the tarpon acrobatics.  It was non stop action for the first 2 hours of the incoming tide... at one point I jumped 3 tarpon in a row casting in the exact same spot.  Water temp was 69 degrees and the fish were hungry... maybe because of the high winds lately?  Who knows, but it was a blast.  The bad part is I can't get one to the boat if my life depended on it.  Went 1 for 9 tonight.  That's pretty poor.  I bent 4 hooks on fish that were around 30 pounds.  I'm not using much drag but it seems that the hooks are bending on the head shakes... so here's my plan (since I don't want to stop using those hooks just yet)... I'm going to try a rod with some 10# mono to give it some stretch... that should cure the hook bending issue... but it will most likely make my hook sets pretty lousy.  Worth a try I guess.

As for the snook... they were all over.  Smallest was 22" and the top 4 were 28" with 3 27 inchers.  The snook have been gobbling up the big 9" Hogy eels lately... and the pre-rigged ones don't fall apart after a couple fish like most jigs do... I used the one all night until I lost it on what I'm guessing was a small goliath that pinned me to the bottom.  Super fun night... get out before this cold weather turns off the bite!



Good times with Captain Ross Gallagher and a few snook

Good times with Captain Ross and a few snook

For years I've been watching Captain Ross Gallagher's posts about tarpon and snook on Florida Sportsman and also on his website . He's one of the guys that I've soaked up a lot of tips from over the years and as such I've been bugging him about going fishing with me for pretty much the whole time. Well the planets aligned and we were able to get together for a little much needed snook action. We fished a moderate outgoing tide and although the bite wasn't on fire, it was consistent and quality fish were to be had. In about 4 hours we boated 8 snook ranging from 24" to 31". We were hoping to get on some big ole fatty's but we'll take 3 slot snook in one night just the same. I typically pride myself on pinpoint casts but Ross definitely schooled me on casting accuracy and especially accuracy at distance. When fishing near structure it is so critical to cast as close to the structure as possible... missing your desired spot by 12" could be the difference between that laid up 40" snook seeing your bait or not. 
Ross was trying out the new Hogy 4" paddle tail jigs that are pre-rigged and caught a few with them. I was impressed with their action and also how well they held up after a few fish. When the water slowed down he had good success with the 9" classic eel. I think I'm cursed with paddle tails because as usual, I didn't catch anything with them. My luck turned for the better though when I switched to the 7" classic eel and dragged a few healthy fish out from under the structure.
As was expected I had a great time with Ross and even picked up a few more techniques that I hadn't tried before. Getting to try out a few new lures for the first time was a bonus as well.


1/13/17 - Full moon, slack tide, cold water and pelican poop... 7 tarpon and 9 snook?

Full moon, slack tide, cold water and pelican poop... 7 tarpon and 9 snook?

Well tonight was a weird one... but a fun one. I've been wanting to get out and fish this week but haven't had much time... tonight was my only night available where I could get out by myself. I had pretty much everything going against me... full moon? Check. Weak outgoing tide? Check. Water is still cold from the front last week? Check. A pelican pooped on me? Wait... what the frig? No kidding... a pelican pooped on me today. Awesome.
With all those negative things, I had an absolute blast fishing tonight. Landed my first tarpon on my second cast. Jumped another one 3 casts later. Jumped 2 more within the next 20 minutes. The tide started going even more slack and for some reason the snook bite turned on... and boy was it on. First snook went 30", then a couple of 24's... then ended up with a 28, 26, two 27's, and a couple more 22 to 24's. One snookzilla ran drag on me like a big ole fatty magoo and ended up chafing the leader through. Dang. 
When the tide turned around the tarpon bite came back on and I jumped 3 more. Couldn't get any more to the boat though... two straightened hooks and one dragged me into a piling... I didn't have a chance. The tarpon tonight ranged from about 20 lbs to 40 lbs. Bite died when the tide got really moving though... ahh well. Had a great time fishing the Hogy's tonight.

BTW... I'm shooting for 400 jumped tarpon this year, with 100 landed. That's not including charters.  Just me.



1/5/2017 and 1/6/2017 6 tarpon and a dozen snook

6 tarpon the past two nights out

With the cold front coming in today I knew time was limited so I got out the past two nights for some tarpon/snook action. Nobody else with me... just some alone time with the tarpons. Two nights ago I went 1 for 2... 40 pounder to the boat and the other was a 20 pounder. One caught on the incoming and one on the outgoing. Last night I got out on the peak of the incoming and jumped 3 tarpon in the first 30 minutes... I thought it was going to be an incredible night... but then the rain came and the bite died. The tide was about to go slack anyway so I decided to wait it out in the car and take a nap. When I woke up and got back out there the tide was ripping, rain was gone, but only managed one more tarpon. I probably caught a dozen or more snook between the two nights. I've been using the Hogy 7" jiggin eel with good success and the Barbarian VMC jig head. I've been doing some experimenting with colors and the lighter colors seem to work better some nights and some nights the darker works better... I can't figure out why.  The good news is that VMC hook is so dang sharp my jump to bump ratio has gone up substantially. We're talking 50% at least here... it's pretty remarkable. 

Cold front today so I'm going to do some work to the trailer. Hopefully we'll get out there again soon.


1-2-2017 - Seven more early morning tarpon!

My brother is in town this weekend and he wanted to get on some of these wintertime tarpon I've been telling him about... so we did. The strong incoming tide was a good producer just like the day before. I went 2 for 6 with the estimated weights ranging between 12 lbs and 50 lbs. We also caught quite a few snook between the two of us... probably 6 decent ones released and another 8 or so lost into the pilings or with pulled hooks. I still can't get over how pictures make the fish look so much smaller than they are in real life. I was taking a picture of one of the snook with my brother and comparing the picture to real life it just doesn't make sense. We need to hold our arms out further I think LOL. It could be a coincidence but the new hooks I've been using have been great at hooking up with tarpon but seem to pull easier with snook. Time will tell. Water temp warmed to 69 up from 65 degrees 24 hours earlier.



1/1/2017 - 8 tarpon jumped within hours of the ball dropping on New Years!

First off, Happy New Year everyone! Ok, now that that's out of the way let's talk tarpon. I had an itch to get out on a good tide this morning and for some reason I was up when the ball dropped... so rather than go to bed I figured I'd go see what I could see. Got out to the spot at 1:00 AM and the water was 65 degrees... figured the tarpon might not be around since the front but with the great incoming tide and nearly no moon I was hoping they might be holding around some lights with current. Well hot damn I jumped the first tarpon of 2017 by 1:15 am! Then followed it up with 5 more jumped by 2:30 am! 2 of those were adults (one probably 130'ish and one 90'ish), two were 40-50 pounders, and 2 were 15-20 pounders. I found a new hook that I thought might help with my hook ups vs hits and boy did it. I jumped every hit I got except for two.  So I'm pumped about that one. Anyway, back to the fishing... I ended up finishing the night with 2 more tarpon (8 total), a 27" snook, a 26" snook, a 22" gator trout, and a few other fish. Couldn't manage the redfish for the super inshore grand slam. Ahh well.
As for the no landed fish... man I had some bad luck on that part of it. 3 tarpon wrapped me around pilings, one bent the hook, and one broke the line when I didn't see the fray in it from nicking the pilings. 

So bring on 2017... it's looking like a record breaker so far!