By Captain Brian Lemelin
My favorite time of year has arrived. I call it big fish season. Tampa Bay waters have warmed up and the bay is loaded with bait. The big fish have followed the bait into the bay. It’s also spawning season for many species in our estuary (mainly the blacktip shark). This time of year, you just never know what you’re going to hook into.
On a recent charter we saw a nice cobia near a marker. With a 4000 reel and medium rod in hand, my client casted towards the cobia. The cobia reacted too slowly and a large tarpon took off with the bait. We had a 20-pound braided line, a 30-pound fluorocarbon leader and a long shank hook. Not exactly tarpon fishing gear.
The tarpon led us on a two-hour chase. During that chase we almost got caught in our anchor line. The tarpon jumped numerous times, but we managed to hold on. We got our leader touch (so had a legal catch). At that time we decided to put a little more pressure to land the fish on the boat. Well, that resulted in the rod breaking in half. We had the butt end of the rod and reel in hand and the tarpon was still attached.
Somehow, using the FG knot, we managed to tie off a much larger rod and reel to the smaller line. We cut that line and away we were, fighting the tarpon once again. Now, this rod was still attached to the initial smaller line, leader and long shank hook. I now had a total of five knots attached on the line.
After several more runs and jumps, the giant tarpon came up to the side of the boat, kind of looked up at us (I swear with a smile on her face) and spat that long shank hook out at us as she slowly swam away.
I always say every trip is an adventure, and this time of year, during big fish season, you never know what to expect. Cobia, tarpon, kingfish, Goliath grouper, blacktip shark and, of course, giant stingrays are all available and ready to give you the battle of a lifetime.