tarpon have been the exclusive targets aboard the Bounty Hunter since
April 15. The 2009 season has been an exceptional cycle of fish and big
fish at that!
Back in May and in just a 3-hour tournament window
there was a 217-, 198-, 178-, 175- and a 172-pounder weighed at the
scale. In a nighttime event that took place from May 30th to 31st, there were over 70 tarpon caught and released.
fish were in unusual patterns this year. There has been much speculation
as to why this is. There has been talk that the tarpon are reacting to
unprecedented fishing pressure. Others claim that beach re-nourishment
along Gasparilla Island is the culprit. However people choose to explain
the unexplainable, the key is adversity. This apparent change in fish
behavior forced me to fish in ways I am not accustomed to.
In some cases I was not comfortable with doing so, but I obliged
in this life of being a fish farmer. I’ve been making adjustments in
my start and finish times as I have found fishing to be best during
periods of fewer boats and more passive tarpon fishermen. Business as
usual for us…whatever it takes.
A nice permit was rewarded to first mate
Kyle Overstreet while out on a short busman's holiday following
the Lady's Day tournament. Thanks Kyle for giving it your
2009 Team Sign Zoo- L to R : Capt. Chuck
Jenks, Capt. Robert McCue, Capt. Greg Thayer, Kyle Overstreet
(21st birthday). Thank you all!
|On the Pro Tarpon Tournament scene, we took second
place in the Ladies Day kick off event. With less than 10 minutes
to go we were bumped into second place by just 16 ounces. The
regular events have been very competitive. I am in a rebuilding
year with a new team and a whole new style of fishing that I am
honing. The team met its fate when a teammate took sick in week
This caused a
break in the team mojo that we were not able to overcome. For the
first time in my career, we did not qualify for the championship
event and a repeat was not possible in 2009-that's life on
|Props to my teammates Chuck Jenks, Kyle Overstreet,
Greg Thayer; Ladies Team- Kimberley Ann Nobles, Liz Overstreet and
Sarah Thayer; Our Sponsors-
Sign Zoo (www.SignZoo.com),
Mercury Outboards (www.MercuryMarine.com),
Dorado Boats (www.DoradoMarine.com),
Lockjaw Gaff (www.LockjawGaff.com),
Lenco Marine (www.LencoMarine.com),
Motor Guide (www.MotorGuide.com),
Costa Del Mar (www.CostaDelMar.com),
Yeti Coolers (www.YetiCoolers.com)
Pro-Techt Sun Shade (www.Pro-Techt.com).
I want to give a special thanks to "JD", the Dorado
Boats factory manager who fished with us as a substitute in week 4
and week 5.
I fought long and hard for this fishery and the
recreational anglers who fish it. When a local newspaper cover
shot image was given to me multiple times, I realized that it is
time for me to check "PROFESSIONAL" fishing.
A special thank you to "JD" for
filling in on deck and during the last tournaments!
I find myself on the fence as to what my
responsibility is in all of this. Today I reflected throughout the day
on the entire tournament of years past. I am not sure there is much left
for me to accomplish or win in these events-I've done that.
I love to compete, but my conscience is with the fishery and my
23 years of professional guiding. During my recent epiphany I have
re-learned a grateful appreciation for what I have and the people I
spend my time with. My nemesis is my ego. With that in question through
professional tournament fishing, I have come to a fork in the road and
that is one I will have to take (borrowed from Yogi Berra).
A special and upcoming fisherman named Garrett
Yarborough came into my world and helped me through a period of time
serving on the deck. While returning from an afternoon trip, I stopped
in a secret hole off the Intercoastal and near port. Garrett pitched his
bait to the spot and what followed was one of the most skilled and epic
battles I have ever witnessed between man and Giant Tarpon (pictured). Thank
As usual, the end of June saw the crowds
dissipating with the conclusion of the tournament season. We
enjoyed exceptional fishing in Boca Grande Pass and too, off the
beaches of Gasparilla Island for several weeks. I found a "sleeper" area of fish to the south just a few miles and I
enjoyed several weeks of fishing in seclusion. Boca Grande Pass
eventually held just a single school of fish and those fish began
to frequent the beaches of Gasparilla throughout July.
We experienced extraordinary fishing with
artificial lures and live bait on the beach with post-spawn
giants. After the fish actively fed for a week, they began to
spend more time on the bottom and were less responsive to sight
fishing. Again the crowds dissipated. "The bite was over" for
many, though I had continued to fish the area by applying a trade
Back in April I had found a consistent area for menhaden. I
returned to the area in July to find the magic bait still present.
I spent some of my "free time" cast netting menhaden and
layering them in salty brine in preparation for some "Tampa
style" dead baiting. My trips were producing double-digit
numbers of flying giant tarpon for nearly 10 days until the fish
had finally all but disappeared.
|I found small pockets of tarpon in deep holes
and that bought me more time with consistent big fish. That is
what I do. An added bonus in these secret holes was the numbers of
keeper grouper. Each day I was boating 5 to 10 gags in the 10 to
12 lb range. The succulent filets made great dinner fare and
served as an added catalyst for further bonding with my guests
during the early evenings back at the house.
During the latter weeks of July through to
the present, I had consistent reports of the fish deep inside
Charlotte Harbor and Tampa Bay. For me, I have gotten by with what I have
learned over the years and remain on the fringes of the gulf. The
trade off is seemingly less fish in exchange for larger fish,
seclusion and serenity. I will likely find myself in the backwater
with the week's waxing moon.
The numbers of fish in the harbor/bay tend
to be bountiful and in an array of sizes. It is not uncommon
to put up double digits of fish at this time, though like
all fishing, there are many variables that enter into the
In July, life friend Patrick visited
me from Buffalo. I made new acquaintance with an exceptional
and well manner young man, Patrick's son, Emmett (pictured).
Once again, the tarpon provided the staple in the binds that
tie us together. Thank you Patrick for your unconditional
camaraderie and too.....the photo!
Florida's top tarpon biologist, Kathy Guindon
(R), prepares to sample a real GiantTarpon captured by
Moscow's "gentle giant" Dema Penferov. There is
only 1 original! Special gratitude
to the stewards of our fishery!... Thank
The catfish have returned and that
makes traditional live bait fishing with threadfin herring
difficult. Larger baits such as ladyfish get the nod for
additional lines around the bait schools. The time honed
technique of casting and trolling plugs and swim baits (jigs
account for most of the action.
The tropics seem tame this year and we have avoided any
significant or prolonged unfavorable weather conditions to date.
expect the giant tarpon fishing to remain strong through September
and potentially well into October when passing cool fronts will
make finding the fish on a daily basis more challenging.
I will return to the flats for reds, snook and trout over the
following weeks. By October the nearshore fishing for Spanish and
king mackerel and gag grouper will reach it’s pinnacle with
migrating bait schools, shorter days and cooler water. With the
right conditions, we too can expect a hot beach tarpon bite in the
same areas. Book now for the best in fall fishing!
and Tired Arms!