Shallow-Water Tarpon challenge
<p>Lady anglers have all the luck! While I cast my fanny off for tarpon on the shallow flats of Puerto Rico Pam Sherwood hooked a world record class tarpon on 8 pound test line dangling a live sardine.
I wanted to try fishing for big tarpon as part of a cruise ship vacation. Since we departed from San Juan, Puerto Rico it was the logical place to try and book a light tackle/flyfishing trip for tarpon.
Most of the light tackle and flyfishing guides advertising work out of the harbor area. I wanted to see more of the Puerto Rico coastline than San Juan Harbor where our cruise ship docked. To find a guide outside of the harbor areas I rented a car and made a two hour drive to the west side of the island and started asking around marinas for light tackle and flyfishing guides.
Most of the local charter captains referred us back to San Juan while local anglers jokingly referred us to psychiatrists.
We tracked down light tackle specialist Francisco (Pochy) Rosario in the small town of Boqueron. He pioneered light tackle guiding on the west side of the island. Eight years ago he started chasing tarpon on the local flats after moving over from running deep sea charters. He has an impressive list of avid fly and light tackle anglers from Oregon to England for a guide so hard to find.
Pam Sherwood enjoys light tackle spin fishing but does not saltwater flyfish. Pochy said that he could accommodate both our wishes with me casting flies off the front of the boat and Pam fishing bait out of the back. He felt that both of us would hook tarpon with most of the action coming of live sardines and Clouser flies patterned after them.
Climbing on board his 17 foot skiff I was impressed with the quality of his gear. He carried a complement of five quality fly rods and five light spinning rods. His live well was filled with silvery sardines he caught with a cast net hours before we arrived at 7 a.m. and he had an assortment of other baits. His selection of flies ranged from traditional Clousers Minnow imitations to a home tied floater.
We boated three miles of crystal clear flats to Cabo Rojo Pass and pulled in behind several local fishing boats cleaning their night catch. A school of 60- 80 pound tarpon lazed along the surface down current of the fishermen cleaning their catch. We anchored and waited for the schooling fish to move into casting range. As the tarpon worked their way past us I stepped up on the casting platform and started to cast. The fish spooked and bolted before my fly hit the water.
So much for laying the fly out in front of the fish. Pochy baited up two rigs, one with a live sardine and the other with belly meat from a small tuna and cast them out for Pam. He chummed with live sardines and handed me a second fly rod with a silver Clouser Deep Water Minnow fly on it. The tarpon responded to the live bait and moved back towards us. Almost immediately a tarpon lunged at my fly but missed sucking it in.
Pam had a hit on one of the bait rods but the tarpon shook the hook with the first jump. Then one crushed a bait and streaked off with spinning reel spoon singing. Suddenly the line slacked. The hook was flattened.
The tarpon lingered just out of fly casting range on the clear flats. We watched them fining and cruising around. I picked up one of the Penn International Spinning rod and heaved out a live sardine on a circle hook.
Immediately a tarpon struck my bait and streaked away jumping at 100 yards. Pochy cautioned me not to put too much pressure on the fish since the line was only 8 pound test. A half hour later and three jumps the hook pulled loose. We got a very good look at a 120-130 pound silvery fish. My adrenaline was pumping.
Over the next five hours we changed locations three times fishing mangrove bays, dock structures and flats. We jumped two more medium size tarpon and I brought a small 5-7 pound baby tarpon to the boat for release in a steamy mangrove estuary.
Pochy tenacity impressed me. He continually changed locations, stalked fish, changed bait and flies. He was working trying to get us each a big fish.
Pam had kicked back and relaxing when a tarpon hit her 8 pound test offering. It ripped the line off the spinning reel headed seaward. The drag was just tight enough to imbed the circle hook but not tight enough to break the line. Pochy continually checked the drag.
Our jaws dropped when the fish cleared the water on its first jump. It was not one of the 15-30 pound tarpon we were casting to on top of the water. It was in the 80 pound class.
The fish reduced a full spool of line to a quarter spool and Pochy started the motor and we followed the fish. Pam first solid hook up on a tarpon came on the lightest line on board only 8 pound test.
Over the next hour the fish led us through an obstacle course punctuated by acrobatic leaps. It swam towards buoys, boats and docks. Pochy skillfully maneuvered the boat to keep the line from tangling while keeping side pressure on the big fish gradually wearing it down.
When Pochy reached down and grabbed the tarpon mouth we realized how big the fish was. Did we want to keep it? As a catch and release guide he did not want to kill the fish and neither did we. After Pochy released the fish we decided to call it a day. Pam was drained and we headed in for a cold beer.
What a way to top off a cruise vacation.
If you are going to Puerto Rico and want to add in topnotch light tackle fishing give Pochy Rosario a call at 787-547-7380 or visit his website at www.lighttackleadventure.8k.com. He is Coast Guard Certified and endorsed by the official Puerto Rico Tourism Company. He fishes out of Boqueron a two plus hour drive on good highways from San Juan or a short 20 minute hop flight to Mayaguez. He can help arrange travel and accommodations.
By Mr.Harry Morse angler and writer from Idaho
About The Author: Captain Francisco Rosario
Company: Light Tackle Adventure Tarpon Fishing
Area Reporting: Boqueron Bay (Cabo Rojo Puerto Rico)
Bio: Capt. Francisco \"Pochy\" Rosario· U.S.C.G Certified Captain License · Certified Guide by Puerto Rico Tourism Company (GT 2001-018) · Endorsed by the Puerto Rico Tourism Company · Endorsed by Comisión de Servicio Público (Public Service Commission) (S-03-06-Feb-518) Capt. Francisco “Pochy” Rosario is a passionate fisherman. He born and raised in the West Coast of Puerto Rico, and been fishing tarpon since he was 12 years old. Capt. Rosario has more than 16 years of experience in sport fishing. He began working as mate for Western Tourist Services, a deep sea fishing charter company. In 1999 after getting his U.S.C.G license, he decides to start his own business as Inshore Fishing Services. He offered Light Tackle and Fly Fishing trips for tarpon, snook, jacks, mangrove snapper and barracudas. He has a 17’ customized skiff for a spectacular fishing in the West Coast of Puerto Rico. The boat has marine radio, livewell with bait pump, 14 rod holder , deep finder, 19 gal. Gas tank, 2006 85 hp Yamaha endure, 6 life jackets USCG approved, 3 bait net, 4 dry storage, nav. Lights, push pole, flear kit and fire extinguisher.