Two weeks ago, Kathryn and I went to Apalachicola for a few days of fishing with Captain David Mangum. I fished with David last year in May, and due to how hard it was to get away from the shop during tarpon season in the Keys we shifted the days to later in the year, after the tournaments were done and we could relax a little bit.
After a night in Tallahassee (where the Bubba Sparxxx concert at the burger joint was unfortunately canceled, leaving us without much of a plan in the evening), we drove down to David’s place and got rigged up for the coming days.
We started early, and while the fishing had been quite good up until the time we showed up things started to slow on the water our first day. We had a few shots at our first spot, one of which gave up a great bite. The fish tracked and ate the fly, and while I did my best to set the hook I never could before the fish ejected the fake and swam on its way. Kat had a few more shots, and when the fishing slowed there we moved on. We had a visit from a dragonfly, which David deftly captured in hi-def:
In the afternoon, David put us in a nice position for the coming tide, though a problem developed: Kat got sick, and after an hour of watching her deteriorate we brought her to the beach house for an afternoon off. David and I returned to the spot, and had a few more shots at fish that seemed less interested than we required before we moved on. The slow fishing continued to our next spot, though David and I were able to get a solid eat from a large fish in the final minutes of the day. I say “eat”, though what actually happened could be described more as a “miss”, as the fly passed over the top lip of the fish and skittered down its face before the fish realized it was chasing bunny instead of delicious baitfish. With that our day was done, and we headed home to check on Kat.
At the house, we discovered Kat was worse than earlier–somehow, Kat had eaten something that appeared to be full of viper venom, and she wisely decided to take the next day off from fishing in order to recover. David and I went it alone, and we decided to go someplace new for some new opportunities.
We began by looking a few miles from the ramp, where there was a large number of tarpon eating a larger number of small bait fish on the shoreline. We messed around with them for a few hours, unable to get a bite from the well-fed (and better hidden) tarpon that rolled intermittently.
In the late morning we left for new parts, where David hoped to find some laid-up targets in the increasing calm. Since Kat couldn’t be with us, we tied on a fly she tied in order to involve her in the process. Shortly we found a single large fish laid up, and after figuring out which way it was facing we put the fly on the business end. The fish elevated and barked open on Kat’s fly, and we came tight to a large tarpon in the glare. We fought it for 15 minutes before it gave up its equilibrium long enough for David to grab it. He passed it to me for some more hi-def action:
We strapped the fish, and if I remember the girth and length measurements correctly it was 36.25 x 66, a nice fish and certainly one I would be happy with in a tarpon tournament. After that we stopped in a nearby jack crevalle party, and had a short tussle with a small jack before we released it from the oncoming blacktip shark that looked pretty hungry.
After the laid up tarpon action and the fun with jack crevalle, we headed on to where we had spent the better part of the afternoon the day before.
We ended up behind another boat, and as such had only a few shots at unmolested fish. We had two fall in hard behind the fly and not crack open, and with the fishing so compromised headed to one more spot before we left for home. Kat was feeling better, and we were able to get to dinner with Chris Robinson, Preston, and Brett Martina that evening to catch up and visit with the panhandle gang.
With Kat back up near full volume, we set out for our third and final day of fishing. In short order, Kat illustrated her miraculous recovery and stuck a nice 75 pound fish fish on a close cast. A short fight later, I grabbed the lip for a photo:
After that, we continued on to where we had found bait and tarpon the day before. David soon put us in position on the bait balls, which at this point were being bombarded by the sideways flash of many hungry tarpon. I was able to get a few bites from the sliding bright bars before I connected with one that stayed on, a small fish of about 60 pounds. We fought the fish for a while, getting it close to the boat before the 60 pound bite tippet wore through.
Kat had a few shots as well, and as soon as she got up on the bow it looked like the action was at a fever pitch. This continued for 15 minutes until the crescendo died down, and while we hung around waiting for the event to continue on it was apparent that it was done and we moved onwards.
We found a giant school of black drum, and threw many casts and different flies at them before we accepted the fact that they weren’t playing.
We moved near where we had been in second position the day before, and in short order I hooked a very nice fish that ripped off into the deep and went to work pulling back. We fought this fish for nearly an hour, and gave every available account of ourselves in the process. David snapped a few pictures of the brawl, which ended when I had the fish next to the boat and the hook broke:
After that we had only a few short minutes until Kat once again put one in the air, a very nice fish that I would have loved to see her catch on 16. Unfortunately, the fish took to the air and jettisoned the hook on its second jump, and we returned to the spot for what turned out to be a grind.
The fish swam sporadically, and we had a few good opportunities spread out over the next few hours. Mostly, we were able to get the fish to turn but not bite, and despite our best efforts another fish was not in our cards.
We made one more stop without a shot before we headed in, ending our three day fishing trip with the best fishing on the third day.
I’d like to thank David Mangum for a great day on the water and some great pictures, and I look forward to fishing with him again.
I fished with John O’Hearn over the weekend, and I will upload that report when I get some more time.
More to come as always,