Archive for the 'tarpon fishing' Category

Catch, Click and Release – Safe handling tips for tarpon fishing photo ops

I recently received a great question from a new angler of mine regarding why Islamorada fishing guides are usually the one holding the tarpon in the photos. I thought it was such a great question that I decided to share my answer in case other people were curious too. My answer involves several reasons why Islamorada fishing guides take hold during tarpon photo ops.

First, in order to get the fish in the position to even take a picture usually is the result of some serious tarpon wrestling. The wrestle involves me getting extremely wet, slimey, often throwing out my back and nearly breaking my arms. During the wrestle, I have many safety concerns including my angler, myself, the fish and the my equipment. The reaction of the fish can be very unpredictable and I need to have the person who caught the fish holding the rod on the ready in case the fish gets loose which happens a lot. Additionally, he or she is usually pretty exhausted after a long fight and the handling of the fish is hard work they want no part of under the circumstances.

Interestingly, most veteran guides don’t even attempt to get the “along the boatside” picture. They merely wrap their hand in the leader and “pop off” the tarpon. In fact, the best and most experienced Florida Keys fishing guide I know has a razor knife on the end of a broom stick to “release” tarpon. For him, touching the tarpon for a photo isn’t even an option.

Finally the main reason I like to be the one holding the tarpon is simply for the safety of the fish. On the rare occasion that I’ve let my angler don the gloves and wrangle the tarpon for the picture he usually gets excited and mishandles the fish, much to the detriment of the tarpon. Even if the angler manages not to manhandle the fish for the picture they inevitably lose hold of the fish at some point boatside when it struggles and the tired, over-photographed fish spirals downward toward the bottom, unrevived and primed for shark attack. While it may seem egotistical that I’m in every tarpon photo you’ve seen taken from my boat, the real reason is that nearly every time I turn over the reigns to my tired anglers to handle their fish it never turns out well either for the fish or the photographer.

Now with all this said, I don’t want to appear that I am completely against my anglers getting a photo holding their tarpon by themselves. So when we are lucky enough to get to that point, by all means, I will do what I can to coach the angler for a great photo-op as long as the situation stays safe for everyone involved with my priority being the well-being of the fish.

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Fish out of water — My best tarpon fishing tale yet

On the heels of some very intense March wind, I ran one of my Islamorada fishing charters 40 miles from Islamorada to the far northwest corner of Everglades National Park in search of tarpon. After the long trek across Florida Bay, my anglers (Joe Marley and his oldest son Paul) and I were very pleased to spot a few tarpon rolling inside a small creek.
Armed with mullet and ladyfish, we took a long drift down the narrow creek but unfortunately were not rewarded with any bites. At the end of the drift, we decided to start the engine and putt back to the top of the drift and try again. Instead of bringing the live baits back in the boat and placing them in the live well like I usually do, I decided to let them drag the baits behind the boat instead. Paul was dragging his ladyfish in the prop wash about 15 feet behind the engine when all of the sudden there was a huge explosion behind the boat that caught us all off guard. The explosion in the water was the result of about a 70 lb tarpon inhaling Paul’s ladyfish with great enthusiasm. Just having a fish of that size eat a bait in the prop wash so close to the boat was exciting enough but what happened next is something that none of us will ever forget. 
Now for the rest of the story, please keep in mind the creek we were fishing was carved through the mangroves by mother nature herself and spanned about 50-feet across. In typical tarpon fashion, the fish took off like a freight train and began jumping wildly. Before we knew it, the massive fish was making a bee line for the tree line and suddenly launched itself deep into the dry tangled web of mangroves. We could tell the fishing line had parted from the fish but the show was far from over.
The tarpon, now high and dry, began wildly flopping around on top of the mangroves catapulting itself up to 6 feet in the air and crashing down cracking branches and sending mangrove debris flying in all directions. In what seemed like an eternity but was probably only about 20 seconds of watching this “fish out of water,” the bedraggled and confused tarpon somehow managed to get itself back where he belonged and quickly disappeared into the brackish backcountry water. The three of us were left there, jaws dropped and processing what we had just witnessed. While thankful the fish had made it safely back into the water, we were also regretful we had not had time to capture the incredibly unlikely scene on one of the three cameras we had on board. But oh well, what we did have was one great fish tale to tell about the one that got away!

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Best time to go tarpon fishing in the Florida Keys revealed

For the last few weeks on my Islamorada fishing charters, I’ve been fishing off and on for tarpon. Success rates have been all over the board. I had a “three large fish in a half-day outing” with one couple and a painful “no fish for three trips” with a father and son family stinker. Late February to mid-March can be that way. The tarpon fishing in Islamorada can be very good one day and then non-existent the next. The reason for the inconsistency is a function of water temperature. Water temperature is a function of air temperature, and air temperatures in late February to mid march can be cool. Seventy-five degrees seems to be the magic water temperature reading. Above it your good, below it and all bets are off.
This leads to the famous question that I get asked over and over again. “When is the best time to come to the Keys to fish for tarpon?” This question has been a hot topic for the Spring Break families that have been the lion’s share of my anglers the last few weeks. They have heard rumors of tarpon being around and for good reason entertain the idea of catching one. Everyone seems to have been briefed that it’s “still a little early” for tarpon, but that still doesn’t stop them from dreaming about catching one on this trip. When the reality of the fisheries inconsistency is experienced, that’s when they pop “the question”.

So, when is the best time to catch a tarpon in the Florida Keys? Let’s start by saying the best time to fish is when you can make time to go do it. The best time to fish for large migratory tarpon in the Florida Keys is when the water temperatures reach and stay above seventy-five degrees Fahrenheit. That can be as early as mid-March, but usually equates to late March to as late as early April. May is all safe as well as most of June. By the end of June most of the migratory fish have moved on leaving resident stragglers for us to play with all summer. There you have it. April through June is the best time to come down to the Florida Keys to catch a tarpon.
Ready to book your tarpon fishing charter? Start here!

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Roll Tarpon Roll

When on an Islamorada backcountry fishing charter the excitement elevates as soon as you begin spotting rolling tarpon. Have you ever wondered why tarpon roll? Tarpon have a special air bladder, similar to lungs of air-breathing animals. They roll in order to gulp air and then swallow and expel the used air through their air bladder. Their sponge-like air bladder transfers oxygen from the gulps of air they swallow, and release the carbon dioxide. With each release of air they simultaneously take in a fresh gulp of air.  The rolling effect creates excellent opportunities for sight-fishing anglers to spot the majestic silvery fish. Even when tarpon aren’t actively rolling, they can still be spotted by their air bubbles on the surface of the calm backcountry waters.  Their ability to breath air give tarpon an advantage over other large fish by allowing them to feed in shallow, low oxygen backcountry waters.

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