Arriving at “O’ Dark Thirty” I could tell right away something wasn’t quite right. I could hear the surf; you can usually hear it, but this morning it was unusually loud. Meeting my good friend Rik Llewellyn, he confirmed my suspicions: “It’s going to be rough getting out - there are some big sets rolling in.” “Great,” I said to myself, “My first trip back and it’s going to be tricky.” Unlike other beaches that I fish, this one has a very steep beach and deep trough that make for a tricky launch, especially when the surf is up. Couple this with a brand new kayak, and I was a little apprehensive.
Finding a small rip current, I jumped in my Hurricane “Phoenix 14” and plowed through two big waves, filling the cockpit full of water. I made it through the surf and joined the rest of the guys, and we all quickly went about catching some bait. In years past, the preferred method for catching tarpon was to cast DOA “Baitbuster” lures at them all morning. Now we have all gone to the dark side, and resorted to casting pinfish or crabs at rolling schools of the silver kings.
After the required “meet and greet” on the water we all paddled off, lined up parallel to the beach, and waited. It wasn’t long until we saw a good school “daisy chaining” towards us. I had several good shots at these fish, but for whatever reason not one of the hundreds of tarpon in this pod even took a sniff of my frisky little pinfish. Not even a crab thrown right in the middle of the school got a look. “What is up with these fish?” I wondered.
Right around this point, I cursed myself. My last trip, I made up my mind to NOT bring any rods - that way I wouldn’t miss any good opportunities with the camera. I was wishing I had kept that promise, as the school of tarpon had seemed to magically double in size. These were what we call “happy” fish, rolling and tail slapping the surface, and yet they still weren’t eating anything thrown their way. That was, until my friend Dave Robinson got within range to make a cast.
Dave is one of my closest friends, and I always enjoy fishing with him. He always seems to be on the other end of my camera, and never disappoints me with his angling expertise. Today was no different. He had made a cast right on top of the pod - something all the experts tell you not to do - and he was immediately rewarded with a strike. I was too far away for quality pictures, but did catch some of the early fight on the GoPro camera. (Sorry for the water droplet on the lens.)
I caught up with Dave and followed from a safe distance (always behind the guy fighting a fish; I’ve had them almost land in my lap before). I could see that he had the fish nearly landed when things got very interesting: his Redbone rod snapped in half.
Not only did it break once, it broke in three places, making things very interesting.
Hand lining the leader, Dave was able to grab the fish and revive it before the release.
After that first pod of fish the rest of the morning was very boring, with only a few single and double fish showing themselves. We did have a huge school of bonita show up. It was a bad day to be a small fish in the Gulf of Mexico.
Until next time…