Everglades days, Biscayne nights 1 April
The big fish in the interior of Flamingo have moved now from Whitewater Bay to the west where they're up inside a few small rivers and out along the coast. On days when the wind is blowing hard and it's tough to fish in the open those small rivers have been just the ticket. The big tarpon have been eating lures and flies much better than any live bait recently. We've had days with where the live baits haven't gotten a bite and we've had multiple bites on fly or spinning gear with large plugs. Our most recent outing out of Flamingo was with father and son team Bob and Dave Cook. Two days before with another angler we'd had great bites on fly but none of the tarpon would stay connected.... Bob, at age 70, was looking for his first big tarpon so we made the long run early in the day to a favorite spot with lots of big fish in a river that's less than 100 feet wide. From the moment we arrived we had fish from fifty pounds up to one hundred and bigger all around the skiff. Live baits got ignored while each angler took turns tossing plugs at the fish. Dave hooked up first with a fish of about 60lbs on a small plug with 15lb line... Here's a pic or two
It was Dave's first tarpon and he handled it like a pro on a short spinning rod that was built specifically for tossing plugs of every size at tarpon. After the first fish it was Bob's turn and he had several bites and passes at a bit larger plug (more about that later) before finally hooking up. Describing what happened as a "hookup" just doesn't do it justice. After many casts without a bite the plug was eaten by a really big tarpon. Things just got crazy for a few minutes until I could un-stake the boat and get to work trying to keep that fish close enough to give Bob a chance at it. Bob stayed on the fish hard and we chased it up and down river for some minutes while it tried to get up under trees on each side of the river and had to be pulled out from under a few of them.... After 15 or 20 minutes of really hard work that fish finally did one last jump and managed to turn the plug into a position that locked it's jaws wide open where they couldn't close... That plug was turned like a stick inside the fish's mouth and it ended the fight right then. We quickly got to the fish and removed the plug then worked to revive it by towing it slowly upriver until it was able to move on its own. That fish was almost seven feet long and way over 100lbs, I estimated it in the 140 category, an outstanding catch on 15lb spin. I'm still waiting for the best pics of that fish, here's one with my camera...
Here's a pic of the plug that the fish got crossways during the fight, note how damaged the hooks are...
This old Bomber A-Salt was on it's second set of hooks and now has been re-fitted with its third set.... Before the bite, every point was razor sharp. After the fight only one of six still had a point. Note that all the barbs have been flattened, which is a really good idea if you're working with fish that might try to hit you with your own plug...... The A-Salt is one of a half dozen four to seven inch plugs that tarpon will go after this time of year. It's one of the few the fish can't break.
Every day now in the 'Glades the tarpon are only part of the story. We're catching lots of speckled trout, snapper, grouper, mackeral, and other species as well. Here's a pic of young J. J. Meyer with a nice trout..
There are days when you could catch them in this size range all day long... A few days after this photo another angler had a trout this size eaten by a tarpon almost right at the boat.... (it's that time of year)
Our last night trip was on Wednesday night with local pastor and fly fisher, David Hughes (with Church by the Glades) who was looking forward to a night tarpon trip in Biscayne Bay. Although the weather predictions were marginal the actual weather that night was perfect and the fish were hungry. After a few docklights with not much happening we hit the first bridge and the action was great the rest of the night. The only downside is that the fish just took us to school. Dave hooked up about ten times with fish from 15 to as much as 40lbs on a 9wt rod and the fish either jumped off, broke off, ran us into/under/around pilings - in short they just tore us up.... Every fish got a new fly so I'll be doing some tying before my next night trip. Those small Biscayne tarpon are tailor made for a light rod and true sightfishing. Beating them comes extra some nights but I think the pastor will be back...
The fishing situation locally at night and in the 'Glades during the daytime should just get better and better this month and into May. The really big fish in the 'Glades will disappear at the end of the second week of May but these next six weeks should be as good as it gets in the spring.
About The Author: Captain Bob Lemay
Company: Captain Bob Lemay Fishing Guide
Area Reporting: Biscayne Bay and Flamingo
Bio: Capt. Bob LeMay began his south Florida fishing career almost thirty years ago. He has worked for area tackle shops, mated on charter boats, but the highlight of those early years was winning the Lauderdale Billfish Tournament in 1973 with two anglers who had never fished for billfish before!
By the end of the seventies he was guiding part-time and tying flies commercially. In 1995, he began guiding fulltime. Through Umpqua Feather Merchants his fly patterns are now sold in shops around the world and in catalogues like LL Bean and Westbank Anglers.