Barely visible on land in Islamorada, the change of season on the water in the middle Keys is graphic. The great “fish of silver,” namely tarpon, bonefish and permit, seem to awaken from the cold of winter with a renewed vigor. Many other shallow water predators join them. Anglers who are here now face a dilemma; what to do, and exactly how to go about it. Flexible light tackle enthusiasts wisely choose to do a little bit of everything available. Highlight catches on the Mirage 18 HPX over the last few weeks reflect this sentiment.
Mike Palmer from Tampa used 20 pound spinning gear to land 5 tarpon in one day during some very unstable weather of 90, 100 pounds, and three 110 pounders, taken on crabs and mullet. Palmer lost 3 others.
Mike and Charlie Caroll from England put together over 100 fish with 10 species from the nearby backcountry, including pompano, jack crevalle, ladyfish and bull shark. They would have added even more to the body count, but back-to-back-to-back 600, 600, and 700 pound sawfish, all in the 17 foot length range, used up a great deal of their fishing time. Incredibly, Charlie had landed an 800 pound, 18 footer at the same spot exactly one year earlier!
Barry Burnette and Dara Bagwell, both from Orlando, caught tarpon of 120, 130 and 140 pounds on mullet near Indian Key. The 140 pounder was Dara’s first and only a few hours later she also landed her first bonefish, a 5 pounder. To round out the day, Barry took a 10 pound redfish from a school of 100 in front of Lignum Vitae Key.
Hall of Fame golfer Raymond Floyd stepped onto the boat after flycasting lessons from legendary tournament angler and owner of Florida Keys Outfitters, Sandy Moret. Floyd took his first 2 tarpon ever on the long wand, exploding silver kings of 60 and 110 pounds.
Rich Ranone from Providence, RI took a 100 pound tarpon, close to Channel Five on a crab in the predawn, then nailed a permit on a shrimp from a school of edge-cruising headwakers at Buchanan Bank, only to follow up with 2 mudding bones in a row along the outside shoreline of Grassy Key. He finished out the very next day, with 2 tarpon over 100 pounds on bait, and then went to an outside bank to intercept migrating southbound schools of tarpon with his flyrod. An 80 pounder inhaled the cockroach pattern and was revived after a violent 15 minute battle. The next 3 approaching black wads of fish mysteriously errupted and ran frantically out into the Ocean only 100 yards from the boat. A cloud blocking the sun drifted clear and the darkest suspicions were then confirmed. A five hundred plus pound hammerhead arrogantly entered our sandy “arena”. He was escorted by over 30 cobia!!!! Rich laid one out into the formation, and was on instantly. After a tough 20 minute struggle, the beautiful 43 pounder was safely aboard. Later, he was appropriately released………..onto the grill!