Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Little Tarpon of the Everglades

June is hot and sticky in the Florida Everglades. The heat saps you quickly. The only way to deal with it is to not think about it.

That's easy when the fish are biting and when those fish are tarpon.

Baby tarpon are plentiful in The Everglades, but finding them is another story. Most are off the beaten path, so you have to look around.

Jim Dussias, a friend of mine and fellow kayak fishing guide from Doral, showed me one of his favortie spots. I'd passed it at least 100 times and didn't know it was there. It's a spot that thousands pass by daily.

We slipped the kayaks in and our expectations were high. We could see rolling tarpon while standing on the shore.

Since I was working on a story and needed photos, I suggested that Jim do the bulk of the fishing -- at least until I got enough photos.

Jim performed admirably. He quickly hooked up with a diminutive little tarpon, a silver flash of 12 inches. After releasing that monster, he hooked up with a 15-pounder. He caught a few more tarpon -- all on fly.

Then, it was my turn.

I hooked one down a mangrove shoot that leaped to the top of one of the trees. Luckily, the fish didn't get hung up. I hooked, landed and released a few more fish. Then, it was time to search for greener pastures.

We left that lake, paddled through a mangrove tunnel and into another lake. We paddled to the head of that body of water and into another tunnel. We eventually entered a third lake. We could see tarpon frolicking in the shadows.

But it was a rolling tarpon that I hooked. I got a beautiful 20-pounder while blind-casting. When my fly hit the water, it let it sink, then began stripping it in. I saw a silver flash and felt the weight of the tarpon, then set the hook. The little tarpon immediately took to the air.

The battle last 3-4 minutes. Jim helped land the little tarp. We took a couple of photos and released the fish.

I think we caught and released six tarpon and five snook.

Not a bad outing.

The heat was never a thought.

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