The plan for the first day with the 23-foot Mako we rented for three days included barracuda with tube lures and plugs, snappers and whatever would take shrimp, and tarpon towards sunset.
The barracuda particularly disappointed. Five years ago, Matt walked onto the bridge, cast a Bomber, and hooked one about four feet long. I caught another of about three feet on a live pinfish from the bridge. So we just assumed that by plying weedy drop-offs and flats with cuda tubes and by trolling Bombers, we would catch a few.
We must have fished more than two hours before we let our dismay go and got plenty involved with fish on shrimp and light tackle--size 2 hooks and split shot. It is true that barracuda season during winter explodes when ballyhoo move onto the flats and you can catch not a few barracuda, but perhaps 50.
That's a bar jack Matt held for the camera--very tasty. And one of the hardest fighting small--but pelagic--fish you will ever hook. World record is just over seven pounds.
Porgies and grunts proved prolific. Great tasting, the grunts really fight; porgies fight, but not as hard as grunts. I haven't gone into books to find out what that weird fish is I threw back. We caught and released plenty undersize snappers. Snorkeling on the reef the day before, we saw plenty three-pound yellowtail snappers, but to catch a legal-size 12-incher inshore is a rare event as far as we know.
The word everywhere is that blue crabs catch tarpon. We knew them present because we had spotted a lot from the bridge, and we spotted them that evening as we fished. But none would take the crab unless whatever did take, then let go, was a tarpon subtle as a rainbow trout in New Jersey's Pequest. This happened quite a number of times, the crabs not phased.
No, the tarpon photos below are not fish we spotted, but that I somehow caught by camera as we fished. (I used my camera sparingly as we tarpon fished because I needed to be ready.) We ate at the Islamorada Fish Company, immediately adjacent the World Wide Sportsmen--a huge retail outlet--and most significantly witnessed an ornate bar upstairs in honor of Zane Grey.
Reading Zane Grey is like taking the very highest thrills of fishing in pure essence distilled.
Watching hundred-pound tarpon feed at your feet is a thrill, but not nearly the thrill of reading Zane Grey. The restaurant is situated mostly over the water and surrounds a square area where tarpon apparently have taken up permanent residence because they get fed.