As I sit here
to write this report, I realize 3 months have passed since my last one.
Reflecting over that time, I ponder where the time went, yet ironically,
I recount each detail with total recall. The 2007 tarpon season was
blessed with an extraordinary cycle of tarpon that we have not
experienced in many years. How and why these fish cycle from year to
year is unknown and will likely remain that way until the end of time.
Since the beginning of time, man has tried to explain the unexplainable,
too often with a hidden agenda and a 'sense of urgency'. Fishermen are
some the most notorious with their philosophies and dissertations of
Mother Nature or more particularly, catching fish or not.
As with any season, we experienced many peaks
and valleys. Despite the shear numbers of fish, I would summarize
the daytime fishing as typical to downright frustrating. The
spring was late, cool and windy. The water remained virtually gin
clear all season. The spawning cycle was delayed. While all that
created an extended stay of the tarpon to our waters, it too
prolonged compressed stomachs created by developing roe or sperm.
Small tummy, little appetite.
In June and about a month behind schedule, the
fish began to start their spawning loops and began feeding much
more consistently during the day. We experienced some phenomenal
bites and late 'hill tides" all the way through this August's
waxing moon. The crowds were gone. Transient guides had returned
to their home waters. A "changing of the guard" still occurred
with old and familiar faces normally not associated with the pass.
"Reel, reel, reel" still echoed across the handful of
boats, the standard command to come tight with the silver king
short of "striking off".
By mid July, the harbor started showing
consistent numbers of fish. Unlike the pre spawn congregations
found in the spring, post spawn tarpon found during the summer are
here to feed. We had exceptional "late season" trips in
the backcountry through August where tarpon could be found on
virtually every prime spot in the harbor.
In June, Chris
Tallman took this 49 by 86 (TL), 81(G) giant that tapes out at 243
lbs. Welcome to Bounty Hunter Sport Fishing's 200lb Club, Chris!
Marty Kerns took this 219 lb giant on a
warm June afternoon. Welcome to Bounty Hunter Sport Fishing's
200lb Club, Marty!
highlight of the season came with a victory for GiantTarpon.com /
Team Sign Zoo in the 2007 Jim Beam Tarpon Cup. The "Cup"is a double qualified event. For five weeks, 63 professional teams
competed for weekly honors and prizes. Accumulated points each
week define the top 25 teams who qualify to fish in the
"Cup". In previous years, we always qualified somewhere
among the top 7 teams, this year we squeaked by in 19th place.
A change was made for 2007. Instead of determining the
champion in one event of the top 25 teams, the top 5 of the 25
would fish a second day to decide the champion.
to others, I was fully aware of why we had struggled through the 5
weekly events and decided to make an adjustment for the
championship. I know many teams discounted us as an underdog based
on those 5 events. I even had some fun with these guys in warning
them that I would be making an adjustment for the championship and
that "we'll be coming out to play".
among the top 25 teams on day one, our team landed the first fish
of the event in just 20 minutes from the start. I did not plan on
letting any fish go, as we needed two for this 5-hour event.
However, the fish was just 80 lbs, and as hard as it was, we let
it go. An hour in, we landed and weighed a 131.
the scale, shore reporter Kristen Burset asked me what my strategy
was for the next fish. I replied that we would go out and get
another one and be right back. My comment was in jest for making
good TV. The "fleet" was out to the southwest about 3/4
of a mile. I was checking my spots as I was heading out towards
the pack and found a pile of fish in the Lighthouse Hole. There
was not a boat on them. We dropped down and 30 seconds later we
were hooked up. Merely 20 minutes after our first trip to the
scales, we were back! Tarpon #2 weighed 144 lbs. We sat in first
place and with our two fish entered; we waited 3.5 hours to meet
our fate. Our weight held and we moved to day two in first place.
two was a 3-hour event, 5 boats fishing and only one fish to
weigh-in. It looked like a popcorn machine just after we were
given the green flag to drop the lines. The 5 teams were flying
tarpon virtually non-stop. I saw a lot of small fish being hooked
up, to include those off my boat. Next thing I knew we were hooked
up to a 150 pounder and had it close to the boat when a bull shark
appeared and at light speed it chased the fish under the boat
where it broke off. We went back to it and minutes later, Chuck
was hooked up to another decent fish. I guessed the weight as
"good enough" and made it our entry. At the scale it weighed
131 lbs. An hour into day two, we were finished, in first place
and had to sit another 2 hours as the other 4 teams tried to catch
us. That never happened.
To win at
professional fishing, to win in Boca Grande, to win a double
qualified event in the creme de la creme of tarpon tournaments
against 63 professional teams is an overwhelming experience that I
am not sure I will ever fully absorb.
Long time favorites Amy and Fred Salrin
joined us on Amy's summer vacation as a Naples elementary school
teacher. Once again, Amy taught Fred the elementary fundamentals
of giant tarpon fishing. Keep shining those apples Fred!
I am just a
glorified fish farmer who would have never taken the "Cup"
without the dedication, attention to detail, and focus of my
teammates and closest friends, CEO deckhand Brian Timmons, Willie
Longnecker, and Capt. Chuck Jenks. Forever we will share something
between us that few would understand and no one can change. There
will only be one team to finish first in the qualifier of the top
25 and to finish first against the top 5 during first double
qualifying championship in Boca Grande history.
The series is
currently being televised on Sun Sports and other nationally
syndicated outdoor channels. ESPN and Inshore Sports Fan news
coverage can be found on our site at the "In
The News" link.
I just returned
from the south earlier this week. A short hiatus is on schedule in
search of balance for quality time with my family and friends.
Peak fall flats fishing is just ahead, book now to insure availability.
Drags and Tired Arms!