Thursday, September 17, 2015

Blitzkrieg on the Flats

pr. bliss-kreeg
German for "lightning war"

I recently spent a week alone on the gulf coast of Florida. My reason for being there was an inshore fishing tournament that I didn't do so well in but the pre-fishing days leading up to it was full of many awesomely unique experiences. I saw manatee, eagles, sharks and...tarpon.

Tarpon were not a target species in the tournament so I really wasn't geared up to tackle the "Silver King" of the flats but when you're fishing and you see one of these bruisers surface, well, you're gonna try and catch it.

This particular day, I had launched my kayak before daylight, paddled a mile down the shore then a mile out in the bay...twice, fishing the whole time with very little luck. On my paddle back through the mangroves that evening some ibis' had flown in to roost ,so I eased over, admired them and took some pictures then continued my paddle in. As I entered a small bay like area I noticed some surface activity, it looked to be a small snook feeding on finger mullet then I saw it...the back of a fish breached the water. At first I didn't know what it was but another one breached showing the unmistakable dorsal fin of a tarpon.

The peaceful float back to camp just got put on hold. You see, I've grown up reading about or watching folks like Lefty Kreh, Stu Apte, Flip Pallot and later José Wejebè chase these fish on TV and in magazines. It would be an understatement to say that catching one would be anything less than a dream come true and here was my chance. I knew immediately that I was severely under gunned with my inshore rigs spooled with 15 pound test but I wasn't going to pass up this opportunity.

First, I tossed a jig, then a jerk bait with no takers. I then grabbed my rod that had a mirro-lure walk the dog type topwater plug on it and made a long cast. Walk the dog refers to the action the lure makes when you twitch the bait while reeling. When done properly the lure will dart from side to side mimicking a wounded baitfish. I want to add that I've caught bass and striped bass on topwater lures before and they both possess the ability to create an impressive strike but what I was about to experience makes those strikes look like pure amateur stuff...after 6 or 8 twitches I was about to be baptized into big boy fishing. The hit was so violent that it startled me. I set the hook and the lure came wizzing by my head. The fish disappeared for a few minutes then I saw one breach again...same as before...long cast, twitch twitch twitch and wrooosh!!!! The fish rolled on my bait without a hook up. 3's a charm right? When I saw another breach, I made the cast and started my retrieve...twitch, twitch, twitch. This time the fish came from several yards behind my lure. I watched it's wake  and anticipated the strike...WROOOSH!!! This strike had all of the anger, attitude and precision of a blitzkrieg. I set the hook and I had him. It probably lasted only a few seconds but the fish stripped line like my reel was on free spool then it did what tarpon are so famous jumped, twice! It looked to be in the 20-30 lb range and eventually threw the hook, this creek chub fisherman from the hills of North Georgia raised his first tarpon all by himself while in a kayak. It was the most intense bit of raw nature I'd ever witnessed on the other end of my line. It made up for my poor showing in that Sunday's tournament and while I may not enter another saltwater tourney, I will most definitely go back to E.G. Simmon's park with a plan...not to raise a "Silver King" but to get my hands on one. Peace