CHASING THE GREATEST GAMEFISH
By Capt. Rami Ashouri . March 4, 2022
Tarpon. The very name spoken out loud incites a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions. Moving pictures racing through the mind of giant leaping silver fish, violent head shaking and the sound of rattling gills. Perhaps the name evokes images of shots missed, schools of fish blowing out in a wad of commotion, or the many days where fish are observed crushing bait and free jumping for hours on end without a single hit on your repeatedly thrown lure.
Whether you think of tarpon fondly or with frustration, there is little argument that tarpon are one of the greatest gamefish to grace our oceans. Unfortunately, this year, due to various factors, I did not have occasion to pursue them as often as I would have liked. The few times I have looked hadn’t produced any success until this past Sunday.
The day started with familiarity, at a boat ramp I often use as the starting point for my pursuit of silver, at an hour that most would find indecent, but is often the norm for Kenny and I, and any others looking for tarpon.
Kenny and I changed strategy, rather than head straight for the beach and begin searching for tarpon, we opted to first gather mullet in case the pogies were scarce. After having caught a sufficient quantity of mullet, we proceeded to start the search in some of the usual locations which produced usual results – nothing.
We decided to move to another area, inshore and upriver to see if perhaps tarpon had migrated inshore. Still, no such luck. We opted to utilize the time to pursue redfish inshore while the tide was at the bottom and getting ready to turn incoming. We postulated that the tarpon would likely turn on and start to feed when the tide started to come in. For a while, we entertained ourselves by pursuing the fleeting wakes of spooky redfish in shallow water. With Kenny on the bow, we were able to connect with one, almost by mistake, but that fish thought better of the whole thing and found his way off of the hook. When we realized that the tide was well past midway high, we took off towards the beach again.
Upon arrival back at the beach, the situation was no less grim than it was initially. No pogies, no other types of bait, no obvious signs of tarpon, nothing. We decided to head towards another area we hypothesized might hold fish, and midway in getting there, As I’m scanning the waves to direct the boat safely, Kenny hollers, “STOP THE BOAT, THEY ARE RIGHT HERE!”
No sooner could I get off of plane than we started to see crashing tarpon, wrecking baits with reckless abandon. We shut down and began casting. The show was incredible. One of the greatest sights in fishing is to see aggressively feeding tarpon in the midst of a full on frenzy. It is, however, still no easy feat to connect to one, even in this chaotic setting, as tarpon seem to have zen-like focus in deciphering which baits or lures have hooks and which do not.
After some serious strategery, we were able to maneuver into position and start making some great casts. Eventually, Kenny connects. Big girl. Easily over 100. Jumps clean out of the water not 20 feet from the boat and inverts herself in midair. Hoots and hollers ensue. Engine on, throw it in gear, start the pursuit. Hearts sink when Kenny is suddenly sent backwards from the abrupt disconnection with the fish.