All That Glit­ters

Putting this is­sue together, we pon­dered: Is it too much tar­pon? But we al­ready knew the an­swer. There’s no such thing, once you get the bug. If you don’t al­ready have it, we’re try­ing to give it to you this month.

Saltwater Sportsman - - Table Of Contents / Departments - GLENN LAW

There are two kinds of fish­er­men: those who are crazy about tar­pon and those who aren’t — yet. Once you’ve been part of the unimag­in­able drama and ex­cite­ment, felt the power at the end of the line, and watched a fish nearly as big as you take to the air, rat­tling its gill plates, you re­al­ize one tar­pon is not enough. If you haven’t been there yet, we’re bet­ting you’d like to be.

It’s often said that dol­phin are the per­fect game fish, but about all they have over tar­pon is they’re good to eat. Tar­pon aren’t, which has been their sal­va­tion over the years.

As well, you’re not go­ing to catch dol­phin with­out trav­el­ing to blue wa­ter. But you don’t need to go far to find tar­pon.

Hunt­ing them is as sim­ple and af­ford­able, or as chal­leng­ing and ex­pen­sive, as you de­sire. It mat­ters lit­tle if your means of con­veyance is a big sport-fisher, a sleek flats skiff, a bi­cy­cle, or a pair of ten­nis shoes.

Any­one so dis­posed can pursue tar­pon, whether from a ca­noe, on foot, from a bridge or pier, or in the surf. With enough time, money and honed skills, you can hunt giants on the flats with a fly rod, a team sport where the per­son on the pol­ing plat­form and the an­gler fo­cus their com­bined skills. Or you can soak a mul­let or drift a crab in a chan­nel on mod­est spin­ning tackle.

The re­sults are largely the same.

Tar­pon, a wellde­signed feed­ing ma­chine, are suck­ers for a range of baits and lures. Whether they’ve sucked in a per­fectly pre­sented streamer fly, chased down a soft-plas­tic bait, or picked up a mul­let head off the bot­tom, they al­ways do their part. They go bal­lis­tic when you hook them, pro­vid­ing one of the most vis­ual and spec­tac­u­lar fights in salt wa­ter.

Then there’s the nerve thing: stay­ing calm and keep­ing your knees from shak­ing while a line of huge fish tracks through clear wa­ter, mov­ing into cast­ing range. Or try­ing to main­tain a steady re­trieve as a big un­der­slung jaw rises from the depths with your lure in its sights.

I’ve been for­tu­nate — or driven — to have fished tar­pon in a lot set­tings: the man­grove is­lands of As­cen­sion Bay in Mex­ico, in 60 feet of wa­ter off the river mouths of Caribbean Costa Rica, on the lone­some flats off the coast of Cuba, the end­less Great Ba­hama Bank where they tailed like bone­fish over white sand, off Mi­ami Beach, in the Gulf Coast passes, in the res­i­den­tial canals of South Florida with live bait, the At­lantic side of the Florida Keys and the Florida Bay back­coun­try.

Whether tar­pon come at you in triple-digit sizes or the sporty minia­tures, they share the same fight­ing spirit, the propen­sity to put on a show and put an­glers to the test. No mat­ter where you find them, or how large or small on the end of the line, they all have the same heart.

Even the tar­pon you don’t land stay with you: the sud­den and al­ways star­tling im­age of a spec­tac­u­lar sil­ver fish hung against the sky, or the mem­ory of the back­coun­try at day­break, the only sound part­ing the still­ness the huff of tar­pon rolling on the sur­face, 100 or 200 yards away. Or just off your bow.

Whether you’re an old hand at the game or a new­comer to the pur­suit of this spe­cial quarry, it’s spring. Time to get your tar­pon on.

It mat­ters lit­tle if your con­veyance is a big sport-fisher, a sleek flats skiff, a bi­cy­cle, or a pair of ten­nis shoes.

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