And I don’t mean Robin Morley who I fished with today but one of our great old captains, Jack Kelly, used to say one of us must have killed a robin if things went wrong.
Robin, Chris and I were tarpon fishing again today with Capt Colin. The fish were nowhere near as evident as the last two days in two of our main spots but Demolition Key in Man’o’War Basin had several pods of rolling fish. It’s very shallow water, only 12ft in the main channel and usually livebaiters hold sway but our chunking method, using shrimp boat bycatch, catches its share too.
Incredibly, despite the shallowness of the water, it is absolutely full of mangrove snappers. They take baits virtually every time the bait is run down but they are no mean opponents and battle every inch of the way to the boat.
Today’s batch were incredibly lucky snappers as we returned every one alive, despite the fact they are wonderful eating. We have eaten our fill and have as many as we need for the last night’s dinner.
However, our prime targets were tarpon and that’s where our luck deserted us. Robin hooked the first one, trotting a live pinfish back. He made the fatal error of leaving the rod in the rod holder to keep his bait in position and the first he knew of a bite was when 100lb of silver leapt high into the air. He couldn’t remove the rod from the holder because of the pressure the fish was exertIng and it was gone!
It was my turn next and my error was even more stupid. I felt a slow pull as my line was roaring back in the current and wound to set the hook. The fish hugged the bottom and moved slowly to the right. It then turned and went to the left and I could feel the sinewy movement usually associated with a nurse shark. It was also going with the current and tarpon will often swim into it…if they go down they go quickly.
Both Capt Colin and the flats boat captain next to us agreed it was a shark so I just tried to pull it up against the current, telling them what I was doing. Wth that a HUGE tarpon took to the air and threw the hook. As you can imagine, I wasn’t that happy!
It was Robin’s turn next and this fishes loss was more unlucky. He felt the bite, set the hook and the fish went on a long run. Then, inexplicably the hook pulled.
The tide then turned, factually, not metaphorically, so we went for a look round. No fish could be seen anywhere but there were loads of birds diving on baitfish being forced up from below in the harbour so I gave my fly rod an airing and managed a couple of small Spanish mackerel on a clouser minnow before it was stolen by another mackerel. They have razor-sharp teeth and really I should have added a short, thin wire tippet.
With no fish showing elsewhere we ran back to Demo and set up for the ebb tide. The snappers had mostly gone and pretty quickly I hooked a tarpon. It gave a wonderful leap, so I had no doubt at all about what it was, we dropped off the anchor and followed it. How it happened I have no idea but the hook just pulled. Tarpon have really bony jaws and even though I was using a circle hook, it obviously didn’t go in enough.
Just before ‘lines out’ I hooked another big fish and, after making sure the fish was well on, I handed Chris the rod as he is desperate to catch his first tarpon. It was on for quite a while but it came up for a characteristic gulp of air and our popped the hook!
So, my apologies to robins everywhere. I will be more careful in future.