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Fishing the Florida Keys For Tarpon Offers Reel Excitement

By Kirby Collins

During a recent vacation in the Florida Keys, I decided to hire a guide and go fishing for the day. We had gone snorkeling the day before in John Pennekamp State Park and the water was crystal clear from the lack of rain in South Florida.

The clarity of the water enticed me to try fishing for tarpon before heading down to Key West. The boat captain picked me up at the dock of the waterfront lodge we were staying at around 7:30 in the morning in a 17' Maverick, powered by a 90HP Yamaha.

When we arrived at our fishing destination our intention was to fish live crabs and sight cast to tarpon but it was a still early for the tarpon bite so we moved at little in shore for bonefish.

The Maverick I was fishing from had a forward casting platform and since there was only a slight chop on the water, I thought I'd give it a try. Now, most people wouldn't be so worried about standing on a platform two feet off the deck of a boat that measured a mere 18" x 18" but for a middle aged guy carrying a few extra pounds, it was a bit of a challenge. After only a few minutes on the platform I felt confident and the extra height gave me a better view of the fish.

When we moved out to deeper water to chase the tarpon we encountered activity right away. The first tarpon I cast to was a single fish, the cast was ok but not perfect and the tarpon moved on. The next fish I spotted moved through the flats so fast I don't even think he saw my bait, what can you do?

Shortly after that, a pod of 10-15 tarpon came swimming right at us. My first cast was a little short, as the fish moved around the boat, I reeled up and got ready to take another cast. The guide yelled "Pick out on fish and cast to it" but there were so many and my heart was pumping so fast that I ending up casting into the middle of the pod just to watch them swim around it.

Shortly after that an inconsiderate boater moved up on us and it was time to relocate so, just a short boat ride later and we had moved to a different flat.

The next flat looked just as promising as the first because we saw fish right away. Then my shot appeared, I cast the live crab to a fish about 50-75 feet ahead. The tarpon saw the bait and inhaled it. As the guide advised, I waited for the line to get tight and raised the rod tip. The fish jumped seven times in the shallow flat before making it to deeper water for the remainder of the fight which lasted about twenty minutes.

The guide estimated that the fish weighed around 45 pounds. Tarpon always look bigger in the water and I would have thought it was closer to 60 pounds, but he was the expert.

I've caught a few tarpon through the years and hooked many more, including a spring ocean fish that may have gone over 150 pounds while trolling live bait for kingfish, but this was my first in the crystal clear waters of Key Largo and one I'll remember for years to come.

About the Author: Key West and the Florida Keys are America's tropical playground. With so many things to do in Key West like fishing, snorkeling and diving you'll have an adventure to remember. So bring your camera to take pictures of Key West.

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