Just Add Saltwater

Just add saltwater…camp2

No doubt anyone that ever fished with me has heard a fishing story or two about Stevie Uzzle. Stevie has been my closest fishing buddy forever, since we were kids. Over the years there has been many a fence jumped to get to a secret bass pond, many a mile waded to reach a distant (or not so distant) creek and many shorelines and flats fished by the two of us.

From wading the shallows of New Port Richey after blue crabs, diving the keys for lobster or just eating stone crabs at the camp till we couldn’t move, we never ran out of adventures to pursue.story1_6350

There was never a shortage of seafood either.

Stevie is a fly fisherman at heart. One of the best fly casters I have ever seen, even after almost 20 years as a fishing guide. I can’t believe he didn’t follow me into my current occupation. He would have been a natural. His understanding of the craft of fishing the flats and his ability to teach others is inspiring. Now that I think about it from a business standpoint, I am sure, I am a lot better off he didn’t.story2_6351

Over the last few years we have only managed to get out on the water together just a few times, maybe once a year or so. A couple of times we pursued tailing redfish in the shallows, but most of the time we chased the silver kings.

I cherish the good times we have had in the past and I thought I would like to share the events of our last such adventure.

It was mid-August of this past season (2010). The weather was windy for a couple days, but the forecast for tomorrow was perfect. High 92 degrees, wind light and variable, 50% chance of afternoon thunderstorms, a tarpon junkie’s dream forecast. I had been fishing clients 7 days a week since May, but I had no problem getting excited about today. I had the fish patterned (or so I thought) fairly well. With the weather, tides and my skiff running good, how could we go wrong.story3_6352

Famous last words…

We ran about 12 miles out of El Jobean over slick calm water to a shallow flat I had been on tarpon all week. The fish had been there at sunrise, moving deeper to the center of the harbor as the day progressed. Adult tarpon rarely ever stay on the same pattern for more than a few days. I just need them to stay on this pattern for just one more. As soon as we arrived we saw the first roll of a tarpon in the distance. The story4_6353conversation that started in the truck never stopped as we both grabbed poles, Jenni readied her Nikon and I slid the trolling motor in the water. The excitement quickly ended when after 30 minutes we never saw another fish.

With the glassy conditions we slowly worked our way on the path the tarpon had taken every day the past week. Stories of our fishing escapades of the past continued and the bull shit got deeper. We had to find some fish fast, my boots were at the house. We covered almost all of the upper harbor, seeing a fish here and there, but no concentrations of fish we needed. These fish were spread out and not showing any signs of feeding behavior. Getting a cast at a fish close to the boat was impossible.

story6_6402Reluctantly I worked our way back to the river where we would make a last ditch effort to get on a few fish. Idling along on the calm water it felt like all of the fish were gone. We could see a fish roll hundreds of yards away, if one decided to. Stevie brought up the fact that the two of us never went tarpon fishing together and got skunked, ever. As I was scanning my sun baked memory bank to remember a time we did, just to prove him wrong, I saw a small group of tarpon headed from the channel towards shore. We quickly moved in on the fish only to have them pop up past us still moving with a purpose. They ended up milling around in the shallows just off the bar.

To be honest with you, I don’t remember who hooked the first or the last or even how many we hooked total. I do remember Stevie caught the biggest (did I just say that?). The whole day couldn’t have went any better. Sight casting to hungry tarpon, flat calm water and not another boat in sight.

It truly was a day to remember.

For Information and reservations:

Capt. Mark Bennett

(941) 474-8900

Florida tarpon fishing charters

www.tarponsnook.com