always been a firm believer in cycles of fish. As in all things relating
to Mother Nature, there are many variables. Some are known by man,
others are not, nor will they ever be.
In the geological
timeline of earth, it is widely accepted that the earth is 4.6 billion
years old. Homo sapiens appeared approximately 100,000
years ago. Humans, having spent not even a drop in the bucket on this
planet, have long tried to explain the unexplainable.
If the tarpon were
an animal of the Chinese Zodiac calendar, 2007 would be the year
of the tarpon. It seems foolish for a human to try to explain the
unexplainable of an animal 125 million years old in origin, but
some will try.
Our water quality
was excellent. We had no red tide to speak of in the gulf this
year. Baitfish populations appeared to be normal. The winter was
late. Fishing pressure likely increased in ratio with Florida's
ever so increasing population.
It took me many years to understand that
fishing was not about the amount or size of fish I caught. It was
more about whom I shared my fishing with. Fish have long served as
a catalyst in forming and reforming the most meaningful
relationships and experiences in my life. Here, my childhood best
friend Don Mousaw (left) and my CEO deckhand/life friend Brian
Timmons (right) capture eternity. Don moved from Florida in the
mid 80s and I had not seen him in over 20 years.
The fish appeared
"on time". We endured cold and gin clear water for the first 6
weeks of the "season". The fish remained, though they were
often temperamental in feeding during daylight and frustrated
guides and anglers alike. The crowds came and went. Yet, the fish
On a professional
level, we captured the coveted "Jim Beam Tarpon Cup" (video)
and for the third consecutive year, we led the state of
Florida in the number of tarpon genetically tagged.
"hill tides" continued in Boca Grande Pass. I had expected
things to become more typical when the traditional doldrums of
August came. That did not happen. The tarpon remained and the
"hill tides" continued through mid September.
Eventually I had
to leave my daily rituals with the tarpon behind to accommodate my
fall anglers' requests for other species. I continued to oblige
when crossing paths with the giants, but I did not spend much time
targeting them. Information shared with me on hot tarpon bites
within my network I kept primarily to myself, though I had often
wondered when, if ever, it was going to stop.
The water was gin clear and
cold for the last weeks of April and through May. The fish
remained in tact throughout these trying conditions. As a result,
the spawning cycle of the fish started in June. A combination of
both of these factors frustrated many fishing guides and anglers
alike. Here Brad Goodwin (right) and Brian heft a true giant that
was immediately released unharmed and will forever live between
Brad and his father who were "fishing" together. For me
personally? Brian and his shaven head stand predominant in my mind
with any 200 lb. tarpon. Sorry B- "my bad"
December came and
I figured it would be any day now that the fish would finally make
a significant move. They
The temptation to
catch a giant tarpon in Boca Grande Pass with less than two weeks
to go before Christmas was not all that much different than being
a child unable to sleep in knowing that St. Nick would be coming
down the chimney at any minute.
And so I did it on
December 13th, 2007. The pass was alive with rolling
tarpon and skyrocketing kingfish. Schools of glass minnows were
being blasted by marauding tarpon, mackerel, kingfish, bonita and
snook. It reminded me of the earliest stories of tarpon and Boca
Grande Pass archived in my private library written over 100 years
ago. The exception was those stories of the bountiful liveliness
of Boca Grande Pass were written in the spring of old Florida, not
winter in Florida's modern era.
The magic hour of
pre-dusk came. The backdrop was the 1890 lighthouse decorated with
the season's wreath, bows and ornamental lights. The tarpon
arose to the surface, "their scales were the size of dinner
plates". Frenzied in the minnows, they could be seen several
feet below the surface upside down and motionless. They were
intoxicated on the minnows just as they would seemingly be in a
crab flush in yesteryear's June.
As I went to rest
my head that night, I thought back to the tarpon as being the
catalysts of lifetime bonding this animal has given me. I have
established the greatest friendships and too, the fiercest of
enemies with this animal at the center of them all. I have stood
in victory lane in the pinnacle of my career and too, have been
lower than tarpon doo-doo on the bottom of the ocean at other
points as a glorified fish farmer. In the end, Hemingway's Santiago
appears in my darkness, "the old man was dreaming about the
lions". A metaphor and I am dreaming.
During this holiday season, I wish everyone that has ever
experienced any part of this magnificent creature's bond with me
that same sense of peace and serenity about their own personal
It would be foolish
to explain why, but I am Homo sapien so I will. Why?
Because fish cycle and 2007 was the year of the tarpon, Chinese
Zodiac or not.
I can appreciate
that this particular article is more of a seasonal/unusual blog
from me than a fishing report. Recent and more "traditional"
fishing reports can be found in my archived columns written for
the St. Pete Times by clicking here.
All the best in
Drags and Tired Arms!