We're finishing up our annual family trip to the Keys, and it's time to head back home. We've enjoyed seeing some dear friends and making friends with a few each of over 30 species of fish during the trip. Several previous posts have shared the difficult fishing this year, from the almost non-existand dolphin bite to the spread-out tarpon season. It's been hard work getting the tarpon to play at our usual spots, so we've made a few trips up to Bahia Honda to catch some there, and thanks to some generosity and graciousness on the part of a friend down here we've been successful there, as I've mentioned in an earlier report. Because the hammerheads were zeroing in on our fish at the boat, we gave the bridge a rest for a few days.
Sunday David and I took advantage of the weather and rode over to the Marquesas, poling over some beautiful water.
Take home lesson: seeing fish and putting a fly or bait in front of them is not the same as catching them. We had lots of shots at singles and pods of tarpon and had a few lookers, but no buyers. We fished off Fort Taylor at the end of the day, and again had plenty of tarpon there, but only jumped a few fish.
We slept in Monday morning,(getting out at what I think GTG Rob calls the "crack of noon"), totally whipped from Sunday's all-day trip to the Marquesas. We ended up at the bridge again, catching a few more fish. There were worms in the water again, both at Key West at the Fort and at the Bridge. The bite was slower, but at least the sharks did not visit us as before.
Yesterday morning the tides and weather were right and I went back solo to one of my favorite local spots. (Apparently some in my family think that vacations are for resting, not fishing. ) Some of the permit were back from spawning and several went after my crabs. One fish of 12-15 pounds came to the boat for a release, and i took an iPhone picture.
Because I jumped another tarpon there yesterday, David and I went back this morning to the channel that had been devoid of fish last week.
We only had one bite, but David turned it into another DNA submission and release.
We are packing up tonight for our ride home tomorrow, but Nancy, David and I wanted to take one last ride out to fish the last tide of the day. Waiting for the turn, we decided to drift a small basin near our spot and immediately hooked up, with the fish making a lot of jumps in the shallower water. Not really expecting much, because of our experience over that last two weeks, we didn't bring a camera, but did manage to use the iPhone camera by the boat.
After a few minutes of reviving the fish, David released it, but it was swimming very slowly...and so we watched it a few minutes. It stayed resting at the bottom of the shallow (5') basin, so David dove in after it to continue the resuscitation process, swimming with the tired fish until it was ready for release 2.0. We were relieved to see it swim away strongly after his extra efforts. ( I would have never let him in the water if we were back at the bridge with those sharks!)
We repeated the drift, and again picked up a strong bite, but lost the fish on the first jump. Thinking that maybe we had found a pattern, we aborted the channel idea and stayed with plan B, drifting the basin. Over the last 90 minutes of the day, David and I had 9 bites on 9 consecutive drifts, leadering 5 tarpon.
(This was a quick lift on a smaller tarpon, and it was released quickly and swam away strongly...we don't lift any of the big fish.)
This was a completely unexpected but exceptional evening of tarpon fishing for us, and I consider it to be a wonderful blessing from the Lord and a great "Goodbye" parting gift from the Keys as we prepare for heading up the coast tomorrow.
We could fish a few hours tomorrow morning before we go, but tonight's fishing is the best way to end our trip and the best way to remember why I keep coming back.
Best wishes to all, and especially to my good friend Bill.
Lord willing, we'll see y'all next spring.
Enjoy the spectacular sunset from last week: