Personal Best Tarpon

By: Caitlin Gatrell

If anyone knows me well, they know there’s nothing I search for more during my opportunities on the water than the silver king. These fish amaze me in many ways, and it is always an honor to get a hand on these beautiful creatures. Tarpon, known as the Megalops Atlanticus, seem to find their ways in the backwater bays where we spend quite a lot of time in the Ten Thousand Islands, while of course no secret spots can be given out, we find them traveling amongst sections of mangrove islands, with deep cuts and plenty of strong currents. Adding in a variety of bait fish, other fish species, as well as dolphins, sharks, turtles, manatees, stingrays, and even the occasional alligator, it is a prime spot to find these fish. My personal best tarpon was caught in a setting like this, on a strong outgoing tide, close to sunset, with an almost full moon. The intensity of the strong current ripping through the waters, pushing small branches and leaves around, and the variety of species making their way to the surface, trying to get a tasty meal, makes it all the more exciting. I remember specifically, I threw my live mullet into one of the deeper areas, where the current was moving quickly, keeping my bail open and finger slightly on the line, waiting for that thump. It didn’t take too long before I could feel the line race across my finger, slamming the bail shut and getting ready to fight this fish. The intense scream of the drag and the sudden line pulling occurs right before that big jump out of the water, as the tarpon emerges. It really does get my heart racing and gets me so excited just watching the beauty of these fish as they jump incredible heights with great speed. It was around a 25-minute fight, with lots of run, lots of jumps, and lots of excitement, getting this fish to the boat. Seeing this fish up close was so amazing, really getting to see the length on this girl! I knew from the first jump it was going to be my personal best but when I saw her up close it was even more of a confirmation. The best part for me, is giving them the revive they need. After a big kick showing she’s ready, I let go and watched her swim away, deeper in the water until I could no longer see her. Along with the celebration afterwards, and thanks to those that helped with all the teamwork, those moments are hard to forget, and allow me to see exactly what fishing is all about!