Florida Fishing Report: Florida Fishing Charters

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View Recent Fishing Reports published in the St. Petersburg Times by Capt. McCue


Raise The Roof
"The Sleeping Giant Has Awakened"
- Joe Mercurio, PTTS Television Host

Team Sign Zoo / GiantTarpon.com captures the 2007 Jim Beam Tarpon Cup
L to R: Robert McCue, Brian Timmons, Chuck Jenks, Willie Longnecker

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As I sit here to write this report, I realize 3 months have passed since my last one. Reflecting over that time, I ponder where the time went, yet ironically, I recount each detail with total recall. The 2007 tarpon season was blessed with an extraordinary cycle of tarpon that we have not experienced in many years. How and why these fish cycle from year to year is unknown and will likely remain that way until the end of time. Since the beginning of time, man has tried to explain the unexplainable, too often with a hidden agenda and a 'sense of urgency'. Fishermen are some the most notorious with their philosophies and dissertations of Mother Nature or more particularly, catching fish or not.

As with any season, we experienced many peaks and valleys. Despite the shear numbers of fish, I would summarize the daytime fishing as typical to downright frustrating. The spring was late, cool and windy. The water remained virtually gin clear all season. The spawning cycle was delayed. While all that created an extended stay of the tarpon to our waters, it too prolonged compressed stomachs created by developing roe or sperm. Small tummy, little appetite.

In June and about a month behind schedule, the fish began to start their spawning loops and began feeding much more consistently during the day. We experienced some phenomenal bites and late 'hill tides" all the way through this August's waxing moon. The crowds were gone. Transient guides had returned to their home waters. A "changing of the guard" still occurred with old and familiar faces normally not associated with the pass. "Reel, reel, reel" still echoed across the handful of boats, the standard command to come tight with the silver king short of "striking off".

By mid July, the harbor started showing consistent numbers of fish. Unlike the pre spawn congregations found in the spring, post spawn tarpon found during the summer are here to feed. We had exceptional "late season" trips in the backcountry through August where tarpon could be found on virtually every prime spot in the harbor.


In June, Chris Tallman took this 49 by 86 (TL), 81(G) giant that tapes out at 243 lbs. Welcome to Bounty Hunter Sport Fishing's 200lb Club, Chris!

Marty Kerns took this 219 lb giant on a warm June afternoon. Welcome to Bounty Hunter Sport Fishing's 200lb Club, Marty!
The biggest highlight of the season came with a victory for GiantTarpon.com / Team Sign Zoo in the 2007 Jim Beam Tarpon Cup. The "Cup"is a double qualified event. For five weeks, 63 professional teams competed for weekly honors and prizes. Accumulated points each week define the top 25 teams who qualify to fish in the "Cup". In previous years, we always qualified somewhere among the top 7 teams, this year we squeaked by in 19th place.  A change was made for 2007. Instead of determining the champion in one event of the top 25 teams, the top 5 of the 25 would fish a second day to decide the champion. 

Unbeknownst to others, I was fully aware of why we had struggled through the 5 weekly events and decided to make an adjustment for the championship. I know many teams discounted us as an underdog based on those 5 events. I even had some fun with these guys in warning them that I would be making an adjustment for the championship and that "we'll be coming out to play".

Fishing among the top 25 teams on day one, our team landed the first fish of the event in just 20 minutes from the start. I did not plan on letting any fish go, as we needed two for this 5-hour event. However, the fish was just 80 lbs, and as hard as it was, we let it go. An hour in, we landed and weighed a 131.

At the scale, shore reporter Kristen Burset asked me what my strategy was for the next fish. I replied that we would go out and get another one and be right back. My comment was in jest for making good TV. The "fleet" was out to the southwest about 3/4 of a mile. I was checking my spots as I was heading out towards the pack and found a pile of fish in the Lighthouse Hole. There was not a boat on them. We dropped down and 30 seconds later we were hooked up. Merely 20 minutes after our first trip to the scales, we were back! Tarpon #2 weighed 144 lbs. We sat in first place and with our two fish entered; we waited 3.5 hours to meet our fate. Our weight held and we moved to day two in first place.

Day two was a 3-hour event, 5 boats fishing and only one fish to weigh-in. It looked like a popcorn machine just after we were given the green flag to drop the lines. The 5 teams were flying tarpon virtually non-stop. I saw a lot of small fish being hooked up, to include those off my boat. Next thing I knew we were hooked up to a 150 pounder and had it close to the boat when a bull shark appeared and at light speed it chased the fish under the boat where it broke off. We went back to it and minutes later, Chuck was hooked up to another decent fish. I guessed the weight as "good enough" and made it our entry. At the scale it weighed 131 lbs. An hour into day two, we were finished, in first place and had to sit another 2 hours as the other 4 teams tried to catch us. That never happened.

To win at professional fishing, to win in Boca Grande, to win a double qualified event in the creme de la creme of tarpon tournaments against 63 professional teams is an overwhelming experience that I am not sure I will ever fully absorb.

Long time favorites Amy and Fred Salrin joined us on Amy's summer vacation as a Naples elementary school teacher. Once again, Amy taught Fred the elementary fundamentals of giant tarpon fishing. Keep shining those apples Fred!

I am just a glorified fish farmer who would have never taken the "Cup" without the dedication, attention to detail, and focus of my teammates and closest friends, CEO deckhand Brian Timmons, Willie Longnecker, and Capt. Chuck Jenks. Forever we will share something between us that few would understand and no one can change. There will only be one team to finish first in the qualifier of the top 25 and to finish first against the top 5 during first double qualifying championship in Boca Grande history.  

The series is currently being televised on Sun Sports and other nationally syndicated outdoor channels. ESPN and Inshore Sports Fan news coverage can be found on our site at the "In The News" link.

I just returned from the south earlier this week. A short hiatus is on schedule in search of balance for quality time with my family and friends. Peak fall flats fishing is just ahead, book now to insure availability.

Screaming Drags and Tired Arms!

Robert McCue

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