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View Recent Fishing Reports published in the St. Petersburg Times by Capt. McCue

17DEC07

2007 Year Of The Sabalo

With the Boca Grande Lighthouse decked in the season's wreaths, bows and ornamental lights serving as the backdrop, 
Capt. Chuck Jenks documents history with a Boca Grande Pass giant tarpon on December 13, 2007. As proof positive, 
I am holding the current weekly edition of the Boca Beacon between the fish and the lighthouse. Chuck has become a 
special friend of mine while maturing as one of Florida's best fishing guides. Don't let that smile fool you, this guy lives for this stuff!
 Good times, good times Chuck!


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I have always been a firm believer in cycles of fish. As in all things relating to Mother Nature, there are many variables. Some are known by man, others are not, nor will they ever be.

In the geological timeline of earth, it is widely accepted that the earth is 4.6 billion years old. Homo sapiens appeared approximately 100,000 years ago. Humans, having spent not even a drop in the bucket on this planet, have long tried to explain the unexplainable.

If the tarpon were an animal of the Chinese Zodiac calendar, 2007 would be the year of the tarpon. It seems foolish for a human to try to explain the unexplainable of an animal 125 million years old in origin, but some will try.

Our water quality was excellent. We had no red tide to speak of in the gulf this year. Baitfish populations appeared to be normal. The winter was late. Fishing pressure likely increased in ratio with Florida's ever so increasing population.


It took me many years to understand that fishing was not about the amount or size of fish I caught. It was more about whom I shared my fishing with. Fish have long served as a catalyst in forming and reforming the most meaningful relationships and experiences in my life. Here, my childhood best friend Don Mousaw (left) and my CEO deckhand/life friend Brian Timmons (right) capture eternity. Don moved from Florida in the mid 80s and I had not seen him in over 20 years.

The fish appeared "on time". We endured cold and gin clear water for the first 6 weeks of the "season". The fish remained, though they were often temperamental in feeding during daylight and frustrated guides and anglers alike. The crowds came and went. Yet, the fish remained.

On a professional level, we captured the coveted "Jim Beam Tarpon Cup" (video)
and for the third consecutive year, we led the state of Florida in the number of tarpon genetically tagged.

Through July, "hill tides" continued in Boca Grande Pass. I had expected things to become more typical when the traditional doldrums of August came. That did not happen. The tarpon remained and the "hill tides" continued through mid September.

Eventually I had to leave my daily rituals with the tarpon behind to accommodate my fall anglers' requests for other species. I continued to oblige when crossing paths with the giants, but I did not spend much time targeting them. Information shared with me on hot tarpon bites within my network I kept primarily to myself, though I had often wondered when, if ever, it was going to stop.


The water was gin clear and cold for the last weeks of April and through May. The fish remained in tact throughout these trying conditions. As a result, the spawning cycle of the fish started in June. A combination of both of these factors frustrated many fishing guides and anglers alike. Here Brad Goodwin (right) and Brian heft a true giant that was immediately released unharmed and will forever live between Brad and his father who were "fishing" together. For me personally? Brian and his shaven head stand predominant in my mind with any 200 lb. tarpon. Sorry B- "my bad"

December came and I figured it would be any day now that the fish would finally make a significant move.  They didn't.

The temptation to catch a giant tarpon in Boca Grande Pass with less than two weeks to go before Christmas was not all that much different than being a child unable to sleep in knowing that St. Nick would be coming down the chimney at any minute.

And so I did it on December 13th, 2007. The pass was alive with rolling tarpon and skyrocketing kingfish. Schools of glass minnows were being blasted by marauding tarpon, mackerel, kingfish, bonita and snook. It reminded me of the earliest stories of tarpon and Boca Grande Pass archived in my private library written over 100 years ago. The exception was those stories of the bountiful liveliness of Boca Grande Pass were written in the spring of old Florida, not winter in Florida's modern era.

The magic hour of pre-dusk came. The backdrop was the 1890 lighthouse decorated with the season's wreath, bows and ornamental lights. The tarpon arose to the surface, "their scales were the size of dinner plates". Frenzied in the minnows, they could be seen several feet below the surface upside down and motionless. They were intoxicated on the minnows just as they would seemingly be in a crab flush in yesteryear's June.

As I went to rest my head that night, I thought back to the tarpon as being the catalysts of lifetime bonding this animal has given me. I have established the greatest friendships and too, the fiercest of enemies with this animal at the center of them all. I have stood in victory lane in the pinnacle of my career and too, have been lower than tarpon doo-doo on the bottom of the ocean at other points as a glorified fish farmer. In the end, Hemingway's Santiago appears in my darkness, "the old man was dreaming about the lions". A metaphor and I am dreaming.  During this holiday season, I wish everyone that has ever experienced any part of this magnificent creature's bond with me that same sense of peace and serenity about their own personal "lions".

It would be foolish to explain why, but I am Homo sapien so I will. Why? Because fish cycle and 2007 was the year of the tarpon, Chinese Zodiac or not.

I can appreciate that this particular article is more of a seasonal/unusual blog from me than a fishing report. Recent and more "traditional" fishing reports can be found in my archived columns written for the St. Pete Times by clicking here.

All the best in 2008!

Screaming Drags and Tired Arms!

Robert McCue


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