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As the heat intensifies in the Keys, so does the fishing for the “Big Three”, bonefish, tarpon and permit. The repeated daily cycle of pre-dawn coolness, extreme heat and humidity following, and afternoon build of condensation will cook that special recipe that allows for opportunities to catch this unique trilogy of the greatest gamefish on the planet, all in the same outing.
George Markelson from New York, landed 2 mammoth tarpon before 7:00 a.m. from a productive channel near Lignum Vitae Key. The first tapped a crab at 5:15 in the darkness and staged a spectacular series of leaps, dramatically framed in the spotlight of the Q-beam. These jumps emptied the tank of the 160 pounder, and he was at boatside in less than 15 minutes on 20 pound spin. Seemingly within seconds of returning to the stake another firm bump tightened the line and 30 minutes later, Markelson had his 2nd whopper, a 140 pounder. George then took a 25 pound permit on the Oceanside and finished it off with a 6 pound bonefish on 10 pound spinning tackle on a live shrimp.
Barry Burnette of Orlando claimed his first Slam in similar fashion, nailing silver kings on crabs of 120 and 70 pounds before sunup. An 18 pound permit destroyed a crab as it floated in a tide rip near the Long Key Viaduct Bridge. Minutes later the silvery trophy was netted and released. Later that morning, a single 4 pound bone tilted down on a well placed shrimp and stayed attached to complete Barry’s lifelong angling dream!
Bob Forster from Oregon caught 2 enormous permit, both over 30 pounds and a 120 pound tarpon only to miss out on the bonefish. But Bob had one more day to try for his very first Slam and this time capitalized by taking 2 tarpon of 80 and 110 pounds, a bonefish of 5 pounds and a 27 pound permit that engulfed his crab with a resounding “pop” as it quietly drifted in an eddy near Tea Table Channel.
Pete Knaus of Utah, had dreamed of catching a Slam, especially after watching his good friend Jim Calareso, from Colorado, get his last June. Knaus was firmly in the driver’s seat this year, with 2 tarpon and one permit by 6:30 a.m.. By mid-morning, several bonefish shots were somehow unconsummated, as weather conditions worsened. During a solemn lunch break at a channel edge near Whale Harbor, Pete launched a shrimp and stuck the spinner in a rod holder, still hoping for a miracle. As a storm approached, Pete began reeling in and the line came tight. It was attached to a 21 inch silver bullet to make his inaugural Grand Slam!
by Capt. Mark Krowka