On Tuesday and Wednesday, I fished with Doug Kilpatrick. The plan was for Jason Schratwieser to join us, but this was foiled by an onset of the office flu that Jason had picked up at IGFA HQ. He politely declined to introduce the virus into the middle of tarpon season in the lower Keys, and for that we’re grateful. I’m sure he’ll get down for a trip in May to make up for his truancy.
Instead of fishing with Jason, I fished solo with Doug the first day and then on the second was joined by Frankie Marion. Frankie’s plan was to get some footage of tarpon eating and leaping.
Our first day was full of early promise that slowly evaporated. Doug had found a group of tarpon that he felt presented a good opportunity to fish for what would be large weight fish in the tournaments, and I was happy to play along with the game of act-as-if. We started off with a fair number of big fish around us, though quality shots were hard to come by. The fish were glued to the bottom, and while we made every effort to get them to rise to the occasion we were unable to make it work. We stuck with them until the early afternoon, when Doug made a call to run to a faraway land. We bumped around for a few hours, peeking in places for some scales. Finally, at 3:30, Doug ran to a place he thought might have some fish in it and the bet paid off handsomely. We had to ourselves a group of tarpon that had just moved in, fresh and stringing around the grassy bottom like they didn’t have anywhere they’d rather be. From these fish we were able to pull a few bites. One came off on the hook set, but the other two stayed connected. Of these, both broke the shock tippet (!)–the larger one early on, and the other smaller fish after 10 minutes when it was next to the boat. With such a strange issue, I resolved to fix some fresh leaders with a new spool of 60 for the next day, and tied up five new ones in the evening to keep things moving in the right direction the following day.
The second day was one mostly spent exploring, looking for where the fish we’d found the day before were before we found them. Frankie was along to take some video, and we set out to find the meat. For the first half of the long day, we found no fish at all. Every place we looked at, we felt, had a good possibility of holding some fish but none did. Frankie kept our spirits elevated with some humor, and we simply stuck to the plan to make something happen despite the lack of targets. After an early pass through the place we had found the numbers the day before that yielded nothing Doug ran elsewhere, where we found a couple fish to toss at. The first shot gave up a bite from a decent 80 pound fish, and we got the fish under control without the use of the motor. Frankie got some good footage (I hope) of a great bite and a couple close jumps. We had the fish nearly beat when it broke off, and when we got the leader in we noticed that once again the shock had broken. Guess who’s in the market for a new brand of fluorocarbon to use as a bite tippet?
We had another great shot at this same place before heading to where the fish had to be, and we found them quickly after we shut down. The fish were there but hard to see, and Doug slowly picked through the spot in order to make sure we didn’t run over any opportunities. We hooked a fish early that broke off (in the class, thankfully) when a knot in the running line got jammed in the guides, and we missed another bite from a large fish that I never felt. We continued to hunt as the light got lower, and soon we had a nice string of fish come through that we got an angle on. The curling string gave up a bite from a big animal, and after a few close jumps the big fish ripped away from us in a consecutive pair of long runs punctuated by leaping crashes. In 15 minutes we had the fish near caught, off balance and working hard to stay upright. We maneuvered the boat upwind of the fish for the face grab, Doug donned the gloves–we were in the end game if ever there was one. Instead of grabbing 120 pounds of tarpon for a proper capture, the shock tippet once again broke and the fish swam away. It’s time, clearly, for some different fluorocarbon.
It was great as always to fish with Doug, and Frankie is a fun addition to any day on the water. I’d like to thank Doug for all the hard work and late days on the water, and I’m sure Frankie will put some of the footage he compiled in a form we can take a look at sometime soon.
Tomorrow I’m fishing with Simon Becker, and Monday Kat and I will fish with him together. I’m still on the fence as to whether Frankie Marion is a good enough friend to invite for a day of fishing tomorrow with Simon.
Reports to follow,