It’s been almost a month since our first tagging trip to the Everglades and the waters have warmed bringing the promise of a successful tarpon tagging trip. In addition to myself, Jiangang, Chris and Bruce from TBRC, we had three exciting guest anglers accompanying us; Adam Marton an experienced fly rod tarpon angler from Chicago, Captain Dave Mangum, a guide and charter business owner from the Florida panhandle (http://www.shallowwaterexpeditions.com/) and angler and videographer Graham Morton from waterline media (http://vimeo.com/47187988). Once again, we would be utilizing the R/V Endsley (http://www.curtasea.com/home) as a base camp enabling us to spend as much time as possible on the water fishing.
Day 1. After unloading our gear onto the R/V Endsley, all three flats boats made their way to Tarpon Bay. Dave started up the action with a 100 lb. fish caught on fly and tagged by Bruce. A few hours later, Adam hooked up a 140 lb. tarpon on fly which was also successfully tagged by Bruce. As the day progressed, each boat continued to jump tarpon but no other fish were caught and tagged
Day 2. Each boat went their separate way to look for more tarpon to catch and tag. Chris, Jiangang and I went to Tarpon Pond to see what we could find. As we first entered the system and starting idling up the main creek with our trolling motor, we saw at least a dozen tarpon rolling. While unsuccessfully casting lures we followed rolling fish deeper into the system. At one confluence there were dozens of tarpon all around us. I jumped a 150 lb right next to the boat, Jiangang jumped a fish, Chris jumped a fish, but it wasn’t until we were several hundred yards up a tiny creek that Chris got our first solid hook up. The creek was so small that I was not able to maneuver the boat and Chris had to circle the boat at least two times while fighting the fish and trying to keep it from breaking off in the mangroves. After twenty minutes we caught and successfully released the beautiful 40 pound tarpon, but it was too small for our tags.
Coordination activities in the Everglades is difficult as there is no cell phone reception and marine radio communications are limited. We spent the rest of the afternoon wishing that one of our professional anglers would find us in Tarpon Pond to help land a taggable fish. While we were fishing Tarpon Pond, Bruce and Adam tagged a tarpon off the mouth of Little Sable Creek. Dave and Graham jumped fish in several different locations, but were unable to land any. After dinner Jiangang, Chris and I decided to try our luck at Tarpon Highway. We arrived at slack tide and had constant action for over an hour, with tarpon busting the surface all around us. We jumped several tarpon and landed two bull sharks.
Day 3. We began day three fishing an outgoing tide in Ponce de Leon Bay where Jiangang jumped a nice tarpon that were unable to land it. We took our time heading back to Tarpon Pond to allow Dave and Graham a chance to catch a tarpon with minimal boat traffic. Unfortunately, with a different tide cycle, the activity we witnessed the day before was non-existent. Dave and Graham left for other fishing sites and we headed up to Tarpon Bay to look for fish and wait for the tide to change. Jiangang caught a 50 lb. tarpon that we decided to tag as the fish looked very healthy.
As the day wore on we decided to start working our way back to Flamingo. As we drove by Mud Bay we saw that the prevailing winds had created a perfect shelter and after drifting for a few minutes in the center of the bay we saw a few rolling tarpon. While I was retrieving a casted bomber lure, a tarpon nailed it and the fight was on. Within 20 minutes, we had the tarpon boat-side and Jiangang and I worked feverishly to remove two treble hooks from its mouth. Eventually, the hooks came free and we successfully revived and released the 100 lb. tarpon to end a successful tagging trip to the Everglades.