by Captain Terry Fisher
The month of May brings to Boca Grande Pass (‘Pass’) one of the most spectacular, natural displays of God’s gift to man, ‘The World’s Biggest Tarpon Migration’, in all of it’s splendor. For only a few short weeks, Boca Grande Pass becomes the home to the best Tarpon fishing in the world. Whether a fisherman or not, this natural display of wild life beauty is worth a boat ride to the ‘Pass’, if only just to see. Each spring, thousands of these prehistoric fish make their appearance to mate and do whatever they do to replenish, grow and survive their species.
This is the ‘Promise Land’ for big game hunters looking for the ‘Holy Grail’. It is an experience of a lifetime, to hook and to land a huge Tarpon. Unfortunately, there are many like myself who try year after year, with little to no success. The reason for failure is that it requires years of knowledge and experience to hook and land a Silver King in the ‘Pass’. To do so requires one to re-learn to fish a totally new technique with nuances vastly different from all other presentations utilized for other inshore and offshore species. Over the years I have observed only a handful of Captains satisfying clients with a ‘fish of a lifetime’ on a consistent basis. Only about five percent (probably less) of all boats fishing the ‘Pass’ experience hooking and catching a Tarpon.
In this regard, I decided that in order to be successful when fishing the ‘Pass’ that I needed to take the time and hire the most successful and professional guide possible willing to teach me a technique that works on a consistent basis. Over the years I have observed the most successful guides and among them chose Captain Dave Markett of Odessa, Florida. He demonstrated and exemplified a professionalism that I admire, not to mention that he had the most hook-ups and catches on a consistent basis of any guide while working the ‘Pass’. Captain Dave has been a professional guide for 48 years that includes 28 years of fishing Boca Grande Pass. Dave was named Captain of the Year for the last PTTS Tournament held in 2015. His team won 1st Place for the Women’s Division and a very close 2nd Place for the Men’s Division. Dave relocates to the Boca Grande area from May 10 through Fathers Day to locate and catch giant female Tarpon for his charter clients.
It was on May 10, 2019 at 6:00 AM that I met Captain Dave at the Placida Boat Ramp. It was still dark when we left. Accompanying us was Nadeen Welch, representing Coastal Angler Magazine for the areas of Sarasota, Charlotte Harbor, Ft. Myers and Naples. During the boat ride, Capt. Dave explained the history of Tarpon as well as the development and re-developments of tackle and techniques utilized to catch these monsters. We arrived in the ‘Pass’ at daybreak surrounded by rolling Tarpon. He shared his thoughts on why Tarpon do what they do by ‘rolling’ on the surface. He believes that the smaller ‘rolling’ Tarpon (100-125lbs.) are males vying for favor of the larger (175-300 plus lb.) females foraging along the bottom of the ‘Pass’ that showed up on his sonar.
After a brief orientation of his equipment and how to use it, we were instructed to ‘drop’ a presentation down to the ‘schooling’ females along the bottom. Capt. Dave was quick to point out any and all flaws during and throughout each and every ‘drop’ into the schools. He proved over and over again that fishing for Tarpon is akin to fishing for wild turkey. A wild turkey can spot the blinking of an eye 75 yards away, thus flushing the flock and losing any opportunity to get one. Likewise with Tarpon, any movement of the rod tip during a presentation will cause a school of Tarpon to ‘flush’ (like that of bait fish) when spooked. Any wrong presentation will not get a bite. If a presentation is not finessed or natural looking, all bets are off!
During the six (6) hour charter, Nadeen and I hooked and fought five (5) Tarpon ranging from 175-225lbs. However, throughout the morning, together we missed at least a dozen other opportunities to hook and land one. It was an awesome adventure and one that either of us will forget thanks to Captain Dave Markett. Capt. Dave designs his own bait presentations and selflessly shares his knowledge with his clients, who then become successful catching huge Tarpon in Boca Grande Pass. It is a REEL ART to catch Tarpon in the ‘Pass’.
This time of year there are other techniques utilized to catch Tarpon in the waters of SW Florida, including along beaches and in back areas. Many Captains (including myself) are successful in those arenas. However, if one wants to catch huge Tarpon in Boca Grande Pass, I recommend contacting Captain Dave Markett at 813-455-3056 or email him at [email protected]. His website is: captdavemarkett.com.