Well, it’s that time again! Time for the tourist and Snowbirds to start packing their bags and heading up North, right? Well, yes but that’s not what I mean…
NOW is when the bite turns on for all the fish that have been tight lipped for the winter and start chewing on freshly caught bait! Now is the time for the beautiful Silver King to make their way up through the Gulf of Mexico to feast on the bounty of S.W. Florida. The Snowbirds are going home just in time. I would say it would have to be bad timing but they’re leaving none the less.
Tarpon season is nearly here and just got word today that the tarpon are frolicking and having a good ‘ole time off Sanibel beaches while moving their way to Boca Grande Pass. Ahhh, Boca Grande. The mere utterance of the two words meaning “Big Mouth” conjure up the excitement felt when a kid is told he’s going to Disney World. At least for me and a few thousand others.
If fly fishing is the Waltz then fishing for tarpon in Boca Grande is slam dancing. Not that slamming is looked upon favorably but it happens.
Imagine 150 boats drifting over an area of two football fields in strong current trying NOT to bump into each other while tarpon are jumping, the yahoos that don’t know the rules are darting in and out messing up the drifts and you’re trying to keep an eye on the depth finder to find the exact right spot to let out more line or reel it up! Whew!
I know what you are thinking… Yes, I’ve seen my share of fights in Boca Grande Pass (even been in a few) but they’re mostly verbal and add to the excitement of atmosphere of the pass. People get real brave when they know their opponent can’t just walk over and knock them out!
I’ll tell you the worst thing I’ve seen in Boca Grande Pass while fishing for tarpon… It just happened to be the day of the PTTS (Professional Tarpon Tournament Series). There is so much adrenalyn, testosterone and just plain ego that you can feel it in the air. The tension is brutal. All these guys trying to make a name for themselves and get their mugs on TV is unreal. I have to admit…it’s a blast!
Anyway, one of these guys jumps a tarpon. By jumping I mean he hooks a tarpon good enough where the tarpon flies out of the air like a basketball player making a lay up. At the same time an amature hooks up on a nice tarpon from the same pod. The professional holds tight as the tarpon weaves it’s way through the boats. It’s a fight just trying to not let your line get cut on another boats propeller. That’s part of it though. The obstical course of Boca Grande adds to the excitement of the catch and makes winning a tournament all that more sweet. At least I thought.
As the ego driven angler with a testosterone driven captain crosses lines with the female angler in the amature’s boat (Now, they have the right to be there just as much as the professional tarpon angler does) I watched as the captain came out from behind the helm with what looked like a filet knife. It happen so fast I didn’t have the time to think about why he left the helm. In a split second the line from the lady angler was cut! Sure it was in the way..but no more than they were in the way of the lady angler! You might as well had cut her heart out. Boy, was she steamed and I don’t blame her. She was seen complaining to the officials later. Sadly, it did no good.
I have to admit there was $100,000 on the line and that changes things for some. Oh, I guess I should add greed to the list of things you could feel in Boca Grande pass that day.
Come visit us during “Bite” season and not just Snowbird season. I’ll be your guide through all the frenzy and you’ll have the time of your life!
Capt. Bill Hammond owns and operates
Endless Summer Charters in Ft. Myers & Sanibel