Day 5: First Time Tarpon Fishing at Marathon

We spent last night at our friends Eric and Leah Fosbender’s house in Hollywood.
We wanted to have less distance between us and our final destination.

We left the house together at 7:30 a.m. They dropped their precious baby girl, Amelia, at her grandparents’ house and off we were. We stopped in Homestead to re-fuel and get some last minute supplies. Then, we stopped for a quick bite at Wendy’s in Key Largo. We really enjoyed the sights along the way. The weather was so perfect on the ride down, light and variable winds less than 10 knots. There was some cloud cover but mostly sunny. I wish this could’ve held up for the afternoon.

In Marathon, our iphone maps couldn’t find Captain Pips (www.captainpips.com), so we wasted about a 1/2 hour circling around. It turned out to be really easy to find once we made a phone call to them.

We got to Captain Pips around noon and filled out some paper work with Ellie at the desk for our boat rental (a 22-foot Cape Horn with a 250 Yamaha 4-stroke). Then we were showed to our room in the Osprey Apartment. We both want to live here!

We wouldn’t do anything to change the place we are staying. The inside of our place was so cute and well put together. We even had a deck overlooking the water!

Our boat was a few steps away from our apartment, so loading tackle, coolers and other gear was easy as fried key lime pie.

You can buy award winning fried key lime pie next door at Porky’s. Mmmm…

Norm at Captain Pips went through a safety run with Cooney. We had some live mullet ordered, but it wouldn’t be at Captain Pips until 2:30. So we went across the street to get some live shrimp and chum blocks incase we wanted to try fishing the reef.

Cooney forgot to plug the livewell so we lost around a dozen shrimp until Eric noticed them swimming in the boat basin. By this time (about 1:30), the wind had blown up to around 17 knots.

Seeing as we had an hour to kill, we decided to head out and see what we were dealing with. We had never been to the Florida Keys, and Eric and Leah have little boating or fishing experience in the area. We were all a little nervous and didn’t know what to expect.

We headed out of Captain Pips boat basin (where they pump air underwater out of the basin, to create a current, to keep loose seagrass out).

We were scared to death to run aground because we were in a rental boat, but soon came to realize that there wasn’t much to worry about. The water is so perfectly clear down here that you could see everything on the bottom before you actually got to it.

We headed west to the Seven-Mile Bridge where the current was ripping out so strong! We shot the bridges south to the Atlantic side and turned around to see what we were dealing with. It was high winds and a heavy outgoing tide. We tried to anchor up between the car bridge and the power poles, but could not get the anchor to stick. After a few attempts, it was 2:20 so we headed in to get our mullet.

While getting our tarpon bait we complained that our danforth anchor wasn’t holding us, which is when we met Zach Willis at Captain Pips. He traded it out for a grapple rock anchor, and we also asked him for a few tips on catching tarpon.

The wind chop was so bad that we scratched the idea to head out to the reef to try for yellowtail or mutton snappers. We went back to Seven-Mile Bridge with our new bait and anchor, and this time the anchor worked! Between the 2 couples on the boat, we had an awesome selection of fishing gear.

We freelined our mullet on some 20-pound mono line, with a Bimini twist tied to 60-pound fluorocarbon leader, ending in a 6/0 owner offset circle hook. (I learned how to tie a Bimini twist!)

Even with all our cool stuff and bait we couldn’t produce, the current was so bad and the seagrass was even worse, camouflaging our bait. I did get some marks on my stomach where I was holding the fishing rod.

A few mullet died, so we used them for cutbait and sent them to the bottom. I finally hooked up.

It turns out the dead bait produced a big nurse shark. I also caught a striped grunt.

At 5:00 Eric and Leah had to leave to get back to Ft. Lauderdale to pick up Emilia. So we had some rum runners and conch fritters at The Island restaurant and said our goodbyes.

We then called Zack the guide at Captain Pips and asked him if he wanted to try some evening tarpon fishing. We saved our mullet from earlier, and he said “I’ll see you in 10 minutes.”

We went to our awesome apartment and grabbed 3 rods, a gaff, a tackle box and hit the boat. Zach captained the boat and we headed to the bay side of the bridge (because the tide was now incoming).

We anchored up and threw out our 3-rod spread of freelined mullet. Within 5 minutes Cooney’s Shimano Baitrunner went off but his knot slipped. Extremely depressing!

Zach re-tied that combo and it was redeployed. The drag started singing again about 15 minutes later. I was so irritated that his line kept going off and not mine! This time the fish was hooked, I had to reel in my line in.

Zach quick-released the anchor, and then reeled in the 3rd combo. Cooney moved to the bow and the chase was on for the fish. After about 5 minutes of drag going out and not being able to see where the line was, the line snapped because of drag was too tight even though it was screaming off the reel. We concluded that it was a big ole fish.

At this point we were out of live mullet, so we headed back to Captain Pips at 9:00 and celebrated the excitement of hooking into an amazing animal.

While we were hanging out at the restaurant, we ran into so many wonderful people from the area! We started chatting up a couple of locals and told them about how we aren’t going to be able to go offshore tomorrow with Capt. Lee Lucas because of weather conditions. So they offered to take us tarpon fishing! Their names are Chris and Christy Johnson. Hopefully we will have a lot more to tell you about them tomorrow. After all was said and done, we went to our apartment and crashed hard.

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  • http://www.acesfishing.com/ Zae Ace

    We went down there and we were using dead fresh mullet and we crushed them, those poons were picking up the dead bait fast..http://www.acesfishing.com