On The Water: Anglers Landing Big Catches

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A regular client, David, climbed aboard last week for a few hours on the water. He’s been wanting a tarpon so that was on the agenda. We started with absolutely slick calm conditions and a heavy haze that barely provided a few hundred yards of visibility. We didn’t have to travel far though, as we found a ton of tarpon just 200 yards from the marina. The tarpon were rolling and finning right on the surface, enough to wake anyone up early in the morning.

The bite was slow though but I saw a school of something pushed towards us so I cast an artificial lure, felt a big tug and handed the rod to David. Fifteen minutes later he had a big jack on the boat. As a slight breeze kicked up and the tarpon stopped rolling we changed spots. Here David hooked into an 80-90 pound tarpon that gave us some really amazing jumps. Ten to fifteen minutes into the fight he wrapped us around a piling and broke us off. David wasn’t nearly as upset as I was, as he felt the silver rage of a tarpon and enjoyed every second of it. We ended the morning with another bite, but no hook up.

Duncan from Australia was in Miami for a few days on his way down to Brazil for the World Cup. We started tarpon fishing, but the bite was slow, a roller here, another roller there but no hook ups. We switched to fishing for sea trout on a flat that has been holding both trout and tarpon.

Not long after we arrived on the flat, I saw a few big splashes and some tarpon dorsal fins coming our way. Immediately I deployed a tarpon bait and kept fishing for trout. Sure enough the tarpon rod doubles over and the line sizzles off the reel and to the left. A big 100 pound tarpon tried to jump out of the 3’ deep water only 30’ from the boat, but only his huge head comes out revealing an enormous mouth aimed right at Duncan. Seconds later the tarpon does what tarpon do, spits the hook and swims away leaving Duncan awe struck and me heart broken.

Capt. Mo Estevez can be reached at captmo@netzero.com


• More than 100 boats are expected to participate in the fourth annual University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame Celebrity Dolphin Fishing Tournament set for June 27-28 in Islamorada. The event is to be hosted by NFL Hall of Famer and University of Miami football great Michael Irvin. Reflective of the Hall of Fame’s mission, the high- energy annual tournament allows University of Miami sports fans to celebrate the accomplishments of former student athletes as well as compete side by side with them while raising money for charitable causes. Tournament activities will take place at Founders Park at mile marker (MM) 87 and Coconut Cove Resort and Marina at MM 85. Friday evening party and mandatory anglers and captains meeting kick off the weekend from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday’s fishing begins at 8 a.m. and concludes when the weigh station closes at 4 p.m. After June 1st the entry fee for the first four anglers increases to $650. For more tournament information, visit www.canesfish.com.

• Key West Gator Club Dolphin Derby June 20th to 22nd. A grand prize of $5,000 cash is to be awarded the boat team with the largest aggregate weight in dolphin during the derby’s two fishing days, with teams allowed to enter one qualifying fish each day. Second- and third-place teams will earn $2,500 and $1,000, respectively. Individual anglers can compete for trophies, prizes and cash totaling more than $15,000 in the tournament’s divisions for male, female and junior participants. Contact: Greg Oropeza 305-304-1348.

• The Dolphin & Blackfin Tuna Fun Fishing Tournament in Marathon June 28th and 29th. Top prizes of $700, $350 and $200 await individual adult anglers who catch the tournament’s three heaviest dolphin, with additional cash awards for the heaviest blackfin tuna and wahoo. Headquartered at Burdines Waterfront restaurant, the 14th annual challenge is open to adult and junior anglers. Contact: Brenda Duff 305-743-5317.

• Islamorada Dolphin Tournament July 11th to 13th. Hosted by the Islamorada Charterboat Association, this annual event features $15,000 in cash and prizes up for grabs. Competition is open to all anglers and there is no limit on the number of anglers that can participate. Contact: Dianne Harbaugh 305-522-4868.

• Del Brown Permit Tournament in Key West July 13th to 16th. Anglers fly-fish on the flats in a challenge that honors the late angling pioneer Del Brown, who caught and released more than 500 permit off the Keys. Professionals and guides are allowed to compete as well. The tournament angler who catches the highest total inches of permit on fly on the flats earns the title of grand champion. Awards also await the grand champion guide, runner-up grand champion and the angler who catches the event’s largest permit. Contact: Loren Rea 305-360-6969.

• Drambuie Key West Marlin Tournament, July 16th to 19th. Anglers search the waters once fished by novelist Ernest Hemingway, vying for $50,000 in guaranteed cash prizes. Held in conjunction with Key West’s annual Hemingway Days, the event awards $25,000 to the first-place team. Teams can enter one fun fish (dolphin, tuna, wahoo or released sailfish) per day to add to their point total. For anglers, the Key West Marlin Tournament provides a chance to emulate Ernest’s passion for deep-sea fishing. Contact: Tim Greene 305-304-0317.