One day while living in Florida, Kara and I decided to load up the boat for a last minute Tarpon fishing excursion. It was a pretty hot day out, and with nothing much else to do, we loaded up and headed to night fish around the Gandy Bridge.
Others have been reporting pretty good tarpon action so our expectations were pretty high. Being that we have never caught a large, adult tarpon we were pretty excited. We arrived at the boat launch around 6:30 pm and were greeted by a nice warm breeze out of the South. The only thing that was left to do was to catch some tarpon bait. Easier said than done on that part of the bay, though! We headed to an area that I was certain would be a good spot, but after thirty-something cast with the net, things weren’t looking to promising. However, I did manage to catch a couple of crabs, but not the perfect bait for this time of year.
After a couple of moves and just a small amount of bait, our expectations for the mighty tarpon were diminishing. I threw the net around this platform and when I pulled it in I noticed a HUGE Gaftop Catfish was in the net. Thinking it may make a good shark bait, we soon changed our focus to Bullsharks and headed for our spot.
When we finally arrive at the Gandy Bridge, it was around 9:30 and just about dark. I noticed that the incoming tide was beginning to move in so we set up on the down current side of the bridge. I casted out a few crabs on some free lines, hoping this would draw a bite from one of these giant fish.
Tick tock, tick tock…we waited! And we waited some more! After a while, with absolutely nothing to show forth our efforts, I tied on a small piece of bait, hoping to catch something. By all means, at this point of the night, I just wanted to bring something boat side. Kara started getting tired, and I can’t say that I wasn’t either, so I knew I had to do something quickly. WAIT A MINUTE!!!! I could fillet that catfish and drift it behind the boat. I just knew there were some big sharks swimming around there somewhere.
So out drifted a 2 pound fillet of catfish behind the boat, and put the rod in the holder then sat back and relaxed. After about 15 minutes, ZZZZZZZZZZZ!!! A fish had taken the bait!!!
I ran to the back of the boat and grabbed the rod, hoping that this would be the fish of the night. I gently adjusted the drag while the fish was pulling line off the reel pretty quickly. With all my might I reached for the stars with a hook set that would make most anglers proud! That’s when all hell broke loose!!! The drag started screaming, mimicking a fighter jet, and it was game time!! A big shark was what I thought until she broke the water with an astonishing display of acrobatics!!! “TARPOOOOOOON!!!”….I yelled from the back of the boat!
The lights from the bridge shined off of her, showing off her awesome size! A big, beautiful tarpon was hooked up and fighting for her life!
In fear of this fish getting me wrapped around the bridge, I instructed Kara to pull up the anchor and start up the motor! It was obvious that we were going to have to chase this fish down if we were going to land it!
Kara did a wonderful job with handling that big flats boat, and acted like a pro!
In fact, I think she held better composure during the initial start than I did. The fish broke water at least 10 times and felt like a freight train on the end of my rod. I’d get her to the boat, and she would take off again and jump with pure aggression! This fish wanted to get away badly! After about a 45 minute tug-o-war with this monster I finally got it boat side! I handed the rod to Kara, and with a gentle but quick grab around her huge jaw, I had her! I concurred my goal and we were proud!
After pulling her out for a quick picture, and a little rest boat side, she swam away gracefully! Kara and I both sat down next to each other and savored the moment. A moment that would forever be sketched in our memories. We had achieved our goal and I had the wonderful privileged of sharing it with the women I love.
Needles to say, we were both very tired from the excitement and after returning to our spot and fishing for another hour, we decided that our night was complete.
A night that I will never forget!! The night I shook hands with the almighty silver king!
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