Florida and a measure of redemption

Before the Bahamas thing blew up, I was regaling you all with tales of our trip to Florida and how it felt to get absolutely crushed by the fishing. I’ll pick up the story where it left off.

I had gone 5 fishelss days. My best day was three follows. We were in Marathon (and Tav and Islamorada and Big Pine) looking for, and failing to find for the most part, the big ocean-side tarpon. Fishing with Bill Horn the day before I heard that it was possible the run was really over… that they run for about 60 days and we were in 60+ territory.

Beyond the fish not being there, there was the weather. June in the Keys can be beautiful. It isn’t as hot or humid as it will get later and there are certain days that are just clear and calm and wonderful. There are also horrible, horrible days full of grey skies and squalls and roiling seas. Day 5 was pretty rough and that was exactly what day 6 was shaping up to be.

My dad had flown out a couple days before and the plan was to get him on a tarpon, any tarpon. We had lined up Derek Rust and we were looking forward to the trip. Derek told us he would be happy to take us out, but thought it would not go well, that the weather was going to be horrible, the winds very high and it was not going to be the day we were hoping for. It was not the call I wanted to get, but I appreciated Derek telling it like it was and letting us come up with a plan B.

I made several calls and found a plan B at about 9:00 PM. The plan was to head North to meet Martin Carranza and to head into the Everglades to Flamingo.

It was such a good call.

I fished with Martin a couple years ago in Biscayne Bay and enjoyed his company. Martin busted his ass for us, poling us into the wind for hours. He was easy going and quick with a joke. An easy guy to share a skiff with.

It was a different kind of fishing, but I really enjoyed it. Casting under the mangroves and tight to cover was a lot of fun. I threw the fly rod and my dad threw a spinning rod so we could both be fishing. My dad hadn’t done any spin fishing since he picked up a fly rod about 18 years ago, and so it was a bit rough to start off with, but he found his groove by the end of the day and was hitting the banks pretty well.

Martin and my Dad, in the Glades.

Martin and my Dad, in the Glades.

The first fish of the day was a tarpon, a baby, but a tarpon, and acrobatic and handsome and exactly what I needed. It was a tiny bit of redemption. I had come to Florida and I had caught a tarpon, even if in my mind the tarpon was about 10x the size. Later in the day I was casting a gurgler along the mangroves, over the trench found between the mangroves and the grass and a large, adult tarpon came up on the fly. It turned it’s head sideways so it could look at the fly, and then turned off it. I didn’t have a chance to do much, just standing there slack jawed before shouting some expletive. Probably the closest I came to getting an eat from an adult tarpon the whole trip.

Martin tells me they also come in Men's sizes.

Martin tells me they also come in Men’s sizes.

I also caught a few small snook, my first, and a jack, a snapper and a cuda. My dad got a small snook himself and had a few bumps from other fish. We saw some bigger snook, but those guys were thick in their cover and didn’t want to play.

Martin on the platform.

Martin on the platform.

It was a good day. I got to fish with my dad (who has decided he still prefers trout to tarpon and said the next time I book a Florida trip he’ll book a trip for trout somewhere else). I got to see a friend and some of the water he knows. We saw a manatee and on the way out of the park I also saw an alligator.

Ya know… it may not be one of the greatest victories in Florida fly fishing, but it was a victory for me.

Thanks Martin.

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  1. Great ending! No doubt it was extremely frustrating to fly all the way to FL and essentially get shut out for 5 days. However you had one great day fishing with your dad. You’ll have the best memories of that day fishing with your dad.

  2. It was a good ending. Just think, if that was day one, and the rest of your trip was a total bust, you would have left feeling completely beaten. But ending the trip with a mediocre day (fish count wise) and a day with your dad, makes it feel like it wasn’t all that bad.

  3. Yesterday we looked for fish all over the Ten Thousand Islands area for 7 hours. We saw some very nice tarpon but they were moving fast. No snook, redfish, sea trout, jacks, nada. My best shot a decent tarpon was interrupted by a Florida Fish & Game boat that ran over the fish as they came up to bump our boat while doing their thang. “You have any fish in the boat?”, no. 2nd. officer two minutes later, you have any fish in the boat?” Bit my gum, but my brain screamed, HAVE YOU SEEN ME CATCH A FISH SINCE THE OTHER GUY ASKED THAT QUESTION?

  4. Just a gentle reminder: tarpon and bonefish are strictly catch and release in Florida now. Hero shots are not allowed since these two fish are not to be even taken from the water prior to release. I’m surprised your guide didn’t know this.

  5. bonefishbjorn

    Thanks for the reminder. That is the rule, but it applies to tarpon over 40 inches. This fish, while I would have liked it very much to be over 40 inches, was some ways from that mark.

  6. Absolutely a blast fishing with you and your Dad. He rocks!

    Joel: I know the rules and you can take tarpon below 40 inches out of the water for “hero shots”. Me, the guide knew the rules.

    Thank you for your concern, it is very important that we follow the rules to preserve our fisheries.

  7. he FWC Commission also approved several changes to how tarpon is managed at the June meeting in Lakeland. These changes went into effect Sept. 1, 2013, and include:
    All harvest of tarpon will be eliminated, with the exception of the harvest or possession of a single tarpon when in pursuit of an IGFA record and in conjunction with a tarpon tag.
    Tarpon tags will be limited to one per person, per year (except for charter boat captains).
    Transport or shipment of tarpon becomes limited to one fish per person.
    One fish per vessel limit is created for tarpon.
    Gear used for tarpon will be limited to hook-and-line only.
    People will be allowed to temporarily possess a tarpon for photography, measurement of length and girth and scientific sampling, with the stipulation that tarpon more than 40 inches must remain in the water.
    Tarpon regulations will extend into federal waters.
    Tarpon tag cost will remain $50 per tag but tag validity will change from July through June to January through December. Tags purchased from July 1 through Dec. 31, 2013, will be good through Dec. 31, 2014.
    Prohibit the use of a multiple hook in conjunction with live or dead natural bait to harvest or attempt to harvest tarpon
    To learn more, read our Frequently Asked Questions about these changes.

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