August 14th, 2003
I was jarred awake by the alarm, it was 04:30 and I had only been asleep for 4 hours, I have to stop watching those late movies.
I jumped up and threw on my shorts, thongs and lucky fishing shirt (new) ran out to my truck and took off for a 110 miles drive down the coast of central FL on the gulf of Mexico to a little town called Punta Gorda. I ended up at the marina at Ponce de Leon just as my guide Captain Allan was arriving with his boat and mate (Angel).
We loaded our gear and took off for the Gulf to catch bait which was a good 45 minute run at 45 miles per hour. There was little bait in the bay due to the last weeks huge rain storm. 14" of rain in the last 6 days.
We started catching bait in the gulf by 8:15. We only keep Threadfin for our Tarpon bait. About 1 in every 10 caught. We caught bait and headed back in to the inner bay for the next 25 minutes and started fishing for Tarpon. Drifting with live bait on a 6 foot 80# leader and a small yellow float using a 7 1/2' spinning rig with 30# test line. This is light tackle fishing at its best. Looking for 100# fish with light gear.
I didn't have to wait long. After 30 minutes there was a eruption at my bait and the first fight was on, Wholly sh*t a monster Tarpon about 160# takes the bait and came charging out of the water trying to throw the hook. I manage to fight through his first 3 jumps and on the fourth, he comes crashing with such force that he snaps the 80# leader. I am really in the dump. I figured I just screwed up the fish of the day. I did not bow to the fish as he jumped to give the line some slack. Good lesson.
45 minutes pass, while we wait and discuss my failure. "Thunk," here we go again, not as big, but a great jumper and a second chance for me. OH crap he's gone. More discussion on my fishing abilities. These guys are ruthless. And I paid to get this attention($379.00).
20 minutes later the Capt. spots a poon at his bait, yells at me and hands me the rods, I let the spool run free for 3 seconds and flip the bail. reel up the slack fast and set the hook, Yes, nice hook up and the fish is in the air, over and over the fight is on. After about 8-10 minutes on doing it right the fish comes out of the water towards the boat and bang the line snaps and he is gone. More crap from the crew. I think its the knots that Angel made. He doesn't think so.
Lots of looking and many Tarpon spotted ( 50-75). Another hour + goes by and I am getting worried. Time is running out and so is the bait. We are catching and loosing bait to ocean cat fish. About 10-15 during the morning.
It is 12:45 and we spot Tarpon at the bait. WOW we have a double hit and the cluster F is on. The tarpon roll and run in different directions, what is happening??? As we both reel we realize that only one fish is on. The Captains line comes running up my line to the tip and it looks like a tangled mess. Angel cuts away the mess as my fish heads out to where it wants to go and rips off 80 yard of line, and starts his jumps as I regain control. Jump, jump, jump and jump, I bow to the fish at each jump, I keep the rod up and as much tension as I can hold. When he gives me a chance, I reel up line, pump reel, pump and reel. Now we add a new trick, around the boat with the fish with the Capt. and Angel yelling "don't touch the boat with the line, keep moving, keep the tip up and keep pumping, keep tension and keep moving with the fish and don't let the line touch the boat." Yelling and laughing and sweating as the fight goes on. I have learned from the other fish. It is going well.
Its been 30 minutes and I need to PEE bad. The fishing belt is pushing right on my bladder. I keep wondering how long this will go on. I am sweating like a pig, (did I mention that it is about 97 degrees on the water and 90% humidity and very little wind.) The fight goes on. As the fish begins to tire, I feel like I am getting the upper hand and the jumping has stopped, however the pulling is relentless. I get the fish within 20 feet of the boat and we can see that it is about 90-100 lbs and starting to tire more. How much longer I ask stupidly, when the fish rips off another 60 yard and the Capt says that cost you another 20 minutes.
Just as I am beginning to think of quitting, the fish starts to surrender and I move him closer to the boat. The Capt. leans over the boat and grabs the fish by the mouth and the fish thrashes and the Capt retreats for another chance. 2-3 times more before the fish gives up. We snap a few pictures and holding the fish, we move him along until he is slightly revived and away he goes to fight another day.
I am beat and wobbly, as I sit down and drink a 32 oz Gatorade, 2 power bars and hang my sweating head. It had taken me 65 minutes to land the Tarpon.
Both the Capt and mate, along with a nearby fishing boat congratulate me on my fish. It seems like they feel I did everything right and Angels knots have held. Later we find the tip of the pole has lost its eye and the line has been rubbing on the metal holder and the line is severely frayed as well as the knots. Angel states that I was lucky to land that fish. I feel that it was meant to be.
I hope you enjoy my day.
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