Ahhh, camping on the beach in the Everglades. The steady pulse of the sea. The ebb and flow of the tide. The sound of a raccoon polishing off a bottle of Captain Morgan's...Nature. Sweet. We left from the shady and cool oyster bar headed out to Picnic Key to camp. We jumped a few tarpon and got a chance to hang out fireside with the Captain (Morgan) and his immediate superior the Admiral (Nelson).
The amazing, self bailing, HMS Terrapin.
Since we were looking for Tarpon and stinkpotting anyhow, elitist artificial lure talk was quickly thrown from the window. We went in search of finger mullet to drift through the passes. I ran the boat and Jamie threw the net from the bow. This was fun until we filled the net with 100 greenbacks which all fit perfectly into the mesh. After beheading all these baits and remarking how good the fishing would be in the massive kill zone we'd just created, we found some perfect mullet. I fired up the engine and we set out in a hunt of the white whale of the gulf coast, the mighty tarpon.
It's important to note the massive scale of this area. It's not a pass or a beach. It's hundreds of passes and sub passes and little micropasses and tons of current wildly pouring in then 5 hours later screaming out of these channels. There aren't that many grass flats or oyster beds just mile after square mile of mangroves and lime green water. You throw a bait or lure out and the feeling is not so much "I'm gonna get you fishy" but "I guess this is what you do out here..."
The wind whipped and the current marched gulfward. We fished, hard, In the saharan sun.The mullet struggled perfectly off the stern. We did this for the better part of an hour. I started in on a 7 minute rant about how mind numbingly boring tarpon fishing was aboard the HMS Terrapin. Suddenly, in karmic retribution for my bitching, Jamie's drag on his massive narwhal rod and reel setup started to scream and a serious tarpon did a half pike 50 yards off the stern. About 95 pounds of fish was going crazy in the pass and I found myself skeptically glancing towards my gear. Jamie was getting all "Ahab" as he laughed maniacally and stood in the calf deep water breaking over the stern. The fish continued its run, jumped again and finally landed on the garden hose Jamie was using for a leader, breaking like a twig. I was shocked and the whole scene was a little surreal. Tarpon jumped and rolled sporadically around the boat. Those were some big fish. I apologize for not having photos but, well, we only jumped tarpon and they craftily evaded a photo session. It was all pretty awesome.
Here, you are known as BAIT.
Good looking redfish there.
After a tremendous day of tarpon fishing Jamie reintroduces himself to the Admiral.
That evening, we rigged up the narwhal rod and soaked the remaining bait. We didn't have any wire leader and we broke quite a few off that were probably sharks. We caught some catfish which were then hooked up and thrown right back out. The night fishing was actually much more eventful than the day fishing and its pretty hysterical to sit around the fire until the the rod starts freaking out and screaming in the night. It was really cool. We eventually ran out of bait and in a display of true bait chucker resourcefulness caught a big sailcat on a chicken wing. It was sweet. Then we chucked THAT unlucky bugger back out and went back to swilling fireside. Good times.
Fly fishermen and their ilk may want to avert their eyes. Yep. I said a chicken wing. Raw. Not a problem. This is how we're doing it.
Things got a little foggy after that. There was discussion of an early morning assault on the tarpon and a more rambling discussion of how awesome we are at fishing. We also talked about the anchoring of the boat and how well planned out it was. The waves lapped the shore. There were no bugs to speak of. Nice.
The sun rose to a clear and windless morning. There was a falling tide and a 1750 lb. boat basically giving us the finger from dry land on the high tide line. Evidently the anchoring was NOT that well planned out. Jamie mentioned that there was no way this could have been avoided since the admiral AND the captain had made such a strong showing at the fire the night prior. We busted out the chairs and started watching the tide rise for the next 5 hours or so. The tarpon really lucked out this time.
Oh wait. It's supposed to be IN the water. That's the problem.
We were able to get back on the water by 11:30 and headed back to town and homeward.
Back in Sarasota, sportfishing capitol of the world.
ACTION! So much more fun than boring old tarpon fishing.
There have been tons of redfish around lately.
Hippy shot alert. Hippy shot alert. Grab your wind chimes, seashell necklaces and bongos.
Ok. I have officially won the smallest fish caught on hook and line contest. Nobody can touch this.
Hmmmm. Perhaps a boating safety course is in his foreseeable future.
I tipped the lure with the world's smallest hook and line fish and caught this beauty on the next cast. 29"
Thats it! Thanks to Jamie and Stacy for inviting me along on their Everglades trip.
“When I found the skull in the woods, I called the police. But then I got curious about it. I picked it up, and started wondering who this person was, and why he had deer horns.”
- Jack Handy