One late season cold front, and a pair of juicy tropical systems, both of which produced record rainfall amounts in the Keys, did little to slow the escalating numbers of the 3 premier shallow water species that South Florida has to offer. The tarpon, in particular are providing the proverbial “silver lining” in the fishery of our island chain, that has seen a dramatic decline in recreational and commercial boat traffic. All of the following statistics were brought to you by the Mirage 18 HPX:
Brothers Vic and Chad Unterbrink from Deerfield Beach teamed up during a half day outing to hurl live shrimp on 8 pound spin in the Cotton Key area of banks to land and release 5 bonefish up to 5 pounds. Chad jumped and lost a massive 160 pound tarpon in a nearby channel while fishing a golfball-size crab under a float. His next bite stayed secure to a battling 25 pound permit.
Frankie DeLucas and Charlie Volpe from Plantation had an action-packed full day that began before sunrise with 2 for 3 on tarpon bites and live crabs on 20 pound spin. The pair of poons were nearly identical 80 pound scaly twins, and one was half of a doubleheader that included a 50 pound blacktip shark that scooped up a punctured and leaking 1/2 pound silver mullet off the bottom. They relocated to 8 feet of water near the Western end of Nine Mile Bank to anchor and chum. Six pound braid, fitted with short traces of 30 pound wire and 1/4 ounce yellow bullet style jigs enhanced with shrimp did the dirty work on 127 fish and 16 species. Big and tasty keeper mangroves were iced, along with trout, and the surprisingly still present Spanish Mackerel up to 4 pounds. Also landed were over 20 pesty and aggressive Atlantic Sharpnose sharks.
Ian Norris with sons Connor and Hayden fished a similar pattern beginning their morning with 17 pound spin in the darkness of Lignum Vitae Channnel to go 2 for 5 on crabs, landing silver kings of 80 and 130 pounds. They dropped a fresh cut ladyfish downstairs to crank up a thrashing 60 pound dusky shark, and then moved to flats near the Buchanan Keys to cast live shrimp on 10 pound spin. They landed 5 bonefish up to 4 pounds from 8 bites. Then, for food in the cooler, a move back to the Nine Mile Bank area to anchor up and chum with the jig/shrimp combo once again. The trio took 14 species and 64 fish, with delectable mangrove snappers to 2 pounds, and trout to 3 1/2 pounds.
Ed Patricoff from Islamorada kicked off to a perfect start going 3 for 3 on tarpon, via the wriggling live crabs and 15 pound spin. His jumping opponents weighed in at 80, 90 and 125 pounds. Then, sinking down dead mullet to the bottom of a channel near Tea Table Key, Patricoff knocked out 4 sizzling blacktips and a large sloshing nurse on 20 pound spinning tackle. Next, he broke out the 8 pound spinner to attach on live shrimp and took 5 sprinting bonefish to 4 pounds in the Shell Key area.
Kal Blumberg from Fort Lauderdale drifted palm-size, helpless live crabs on 17 pound spin in the wee, dark hours of the morning near Channel 5 and went 4 for 7 on large tarpons. He spent considerable energy duking it out to the finish with silver men of 100,120,140, and 150 pounds! But, he had more than enough left to work a shoreline with light colored bottom along the oceanside of Marathon to catch 4 out of 5 darting bonefish on live shrimp and 10 pound spin.
Alan Routman from Fort Lauderdale was 2 for 6 with live crabs and 17 pound spin near Channel Two, landing robust tarpon of 100 and 140 pounds. After dawn, he connected with and caught 2 more high flyers of 40 and 80 pounds from a boiling tide rip, also on crabs. Later in the morning, Routman fought in a trio of 3 pound bonefish that munched down live shrimp on 10 pound spinning.
Dick Paulson from Illinois, used a 12 weight flyrod, rigged with 20 pound tippet, 50 pound shock, and a clear floating line, to pick off a 60 pound tarpon that he removed from a large school of Southbound migrators. Just minutes into the fight, the eager young buck raced out to 12 feet of water and used every inch of it to launch himself vertically nearly 8 feet, in an unsuccessful attempt to shake the reddish bunny-tailed worm fly. The next poon that sucked in the barely one inch undulating bug created more drama. This sturdy 90 pounder came tight with a flash of silver and ran seaward, somehow breaking the handle clean off of the fly reel. Paulson craftily used the counter-balance weight on the other side of the spool, ultimately pinching down on it, and cranking the 6 footer in for the release!
Don Armstrong from Utah, had 4 crabs crushed into splinters in the darkness near Channel Five bridge and stayed connected with 2 lively fish of 85 and 120 pounds on 15 pound spin. After dawn, he moved to a nine weight with clear floating line and 50 pound fluorocarbon leader, using the purple colored worm fly to have 3 eats, and remain buttoned to fish of 80 and 125 pounds!
Husband & wife Ray & Teri Castenholz from Deerfield Beach, jumped a 150 pound tarpon on crab at dawn and then brought a 50 pound blacktip to boatside that inhaled a fresh mullet. As the sun rose and cloud cover evaporated, they rigged up the 10 pound spinners with live shrimp and exploded for 17 bites on bonefish, including a successful double header and landed 10 up to 6 pounds! Teri stuck the candle in the cake on the day’s last flat. With live shrimp, she cast to and landed a 24 pound jack crevalle after a brutal 35 minute battle on the light spinner!
Their second day was fished carefully around some early morning active thunderstorms that seemed to temporarily shut down the predawn tarpons. Once again, shifting gears to the light spin and live shrimp, the couple banged out one permit, 7 bones and a mutton. Then, at the very last stop near Channel Five bridge, a live crab disappeared under Ray’s cork and he put away a tremendous 150 pound wild & jumping tarpon for a Super Slam!
Ray then hosted his friend Vito Proscia, also from Deerfield Beach, on the third and final day of fishing. They enjoyed 5 bites on the jittery live crabs in the dark near Channel Two with Vito bagging back to back 120 pounders. The next hit, still in the eerie darkness, fell into Vito’s lap again and showed in the spotlight’s beam as a 25 pound permit. With some increasing wind and building cloud cover preceding one of the recent rainy events, the two anglers moved to the Peterson Key Bank area to patiently fish live shrimp in a series of current-swept troughs. Ray nailed 2 bones to 4 pounds and Vito did in 2 bones and another permit for an individual double Slam! But they were not quite finished. At an intersection of two channels near Craig Key, they wrapped up the day reeling up 9 mutton snapper, with Vito getting his necessary 2 muttons, to make his double Super Slam!