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Poons Throw Home Run Curve Ball
|All good things must come to end. I started out the week
returning to the same waters that have produced some of the best and most consistent late
summer tarpon fishing we have seen in several years. Though I have seen tinges of an algae
bloom the past few weeks, Monday morning found some heavy concentrations of the bloom dead
smack in the area that has been tarpon heaven for many weeks now. The odor was strong and
the water was deeply saturated in the rust colored microorganisms. Tarpon are tough as
nails when it comes to low oxygen water and can often be found where nothing else dare to
venture. However, the things they like to eat are different. Around 10AM I found some fish
a few miles away, but the hour of the day was too late to be productive. I returned at
daybreak the next day. The bloom was well embedded and again the fish were all but gone.
The conditions were so bad, I would not charge my guests a nickel to fish in them and to
the dock we went at 9:30 AM.
The blooms used to be common in the Bay, but much improved water qualities have made them less common the past 10 years. When I do see them they are most common in the upper reaches where tide flow is at a minimum and unfortunately, the same places late summer tarpon prefer. Heavy rains and the subsequent runoff laden with fertilizer and other nutrients likely spawned this outbreak. Richard Boyler an environmental scientist for Hillsborough County, said the algae called dinoflagellate, causes the red color and can kill fish by competing for oxygen is similar to Red Tide, but is not the same.
All of this led me back to the drawing board in effort to get results for my clients who all know the difference between a boat ride and a tarpon trip. First order was to load up on fresh Menhaden that took the better part of the day and many miles from home on Thursday. If only a few fish were holding on other traditional spots, the time honed technique of dead baiting them with shad is the best way to approach the situation. With no time to pre-fish, I honestly advised my return guests Dennis Piekutowski and John (formally known as "Johnny Sunfish") Albino how it was gonna be for Friday. They decided to go for it with the risks disclosed.
At daybreak we sat patiently off a rocky point that held fish about 5 weeks ago. There was bait present, a 200lb Loggerhead turtle accompanied us, but a 5 lb. Spanish mackerel who managed to snag itself on a 10 inch dead shad was the only result after 2.5 hours. On to spot number 2. Again the baits went out and the chumming began on a rocky outcropping in 8 feet of water. After catching several sharks, the port aft rod sang that familiar song. Dennis locked over the bail and an 80lb. tarpon took flight 20 feet behind the boat. About 20 minutes and 5 jumps later the fish was brought along side. A cherry was broken. A short time later, "Johnny Sunfish" became "Johnny Megalops" when another 80lb. poon went bad off the starboard, only to break the line when it fell from skyrocketing on top of a taught line and the day came an end.
We saw just an occasional fish roll on Friday. With the time of day we showed up on Friday, the only way to reveal what type of numbers are there was to return to the spot at daybreak this morning and try it again.
At 6:49AM the baits went out. At 7:01AM the two port rods smoked against the open bail. When locked over a 70lb tailwalked against the sunrise backdrop and a 100lb fish danced a 100 yards off the stern. To further add to the chaos, a third rod went off with a 25lb blacktip shark putting on its own aerial display 30 feet of the port. Confirmed, we are back in business.
The bloom threw us a major and unexpected curve ball this week. With some adjustments, some homeruns were achieved. It is now September and we can only hope it will continue another 4 to 6 weeks when the first fronts of the year will trigger the fish to move on.
Snook season opened today. We are just a few weeks away from peak fall conditions for snook, redfish, trout, cobia, Spanish and king mackerel, Mango snapper and nearshore grouper. Now is the time to secure the best dates.
Screaming Drags and Tired Arms!
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