As a new member to the site, I figured I would share one more recent outing of mine. Hopefully, my next thread will be of some TN bass - I am planning on getting after them on Monday!
...On May 15 I got married to my sweetheart of 7 years, Rachel. We had talked about going to the Keys on a trip for awhile now and decided to go to Key West for our honeymoon. She was gracious enough to accompany me for a full-day with Capt. Mike Bartlett to chase big, migrating Tarpon while we were there.
I booked the day back in January and couldn't wait! Originally, Rachel was also going to fish, but after seeing the first Tarpon she decided to just watch, take pictures, and enjoy the scenery of the Keys backcountry.
Headed out - 6AM We met Mike at Garrison Bight Marina and shoved off.
It was a stormy/partly cloudy day. Mike took us out to some spots near sandy bottoms first because of the low-light conditions. I thought the grey day would be good, but Mike said he really preferred bright, sunny days on the flats. We saw some cruisers in singles and pairs during the morning and one giant permit who wouldn't eat my fly. The storm caught up to us and we ate lunch on an uninhabited island to ride out the storm. It passed and we got back to fishing.
About 11:15 we started seeing big schools of big fish cruising across the flat and feeding hard near the surface.
I jumped a fish and missed two others soon. At 11:45 I really stuck the first good hook-up. The topwater takes were incredible. The toad fly we were using floated just under the surface, so you could see everything at the big moment!
I really wanted to get a boatside or out of the boat pic with the fish, but it was not to be. After fighting this 100+ pound fish for a long time, I pulled too hard right at the boat after Mike had leadered the fish for an official catch and popped the 50 lb. fluoro shock tippet. Damn, boated fish but no picture boatside. WOW!!! What a thrill. This fish had jumped many, many times, a few of which were right next to the boat!
Things seemed to calm down a bit after the first battle. We searched all over the flats looking for more schools, but only saw fleeting shots at some fast cruisers in the distance. I really wanted another. Just one more, please. At 3:15, Mike spots a good school working hard way in the distance. We had already been out on the water for 9 hours, a full day in my book. He could have not even said anything since I hadn't seen them so far in the distance, but being an awesome guide he said, "I see some fish way out, let's see if we can't get you one more..." Cast, Wham!!! Another huge Tarpon on the line!!! After another epic "Old Man and the Sea" battle during which the Sage 12 weight snapped we got the fish boatside and tried to get some shots. Those fish just do not quit. It was very hard to control them even after the huge battles with really strong drag.
My favorite shot
Boatside w/ broken rod
Trying to "lip" the Tarpon
Back at the dock at 6PM. Damn, that was an epic day with Capt. Mike Bartlett! 12 hours, 2 for 6 on big Tarpon with a 3rd jumped. This day had been on my list since I was very young! I can't wait to go back and go fishing in the Keys again. I am already planning my next trip. I am going to try more DIY around the Long Key area.
I would highly recommend Mike as a guide out of Key West. He books up early so contact him months in advance. He mainly targets Permit, but will chase anything else you want to go for. His website - Key West Flats & Backcountry Fishing
One more bonus shot - Mike took this while the first fish was getting a breath.
I hope you enjoyed my post.