Monday, May 12, 2008

Up the Creek

Saturday I launched the canoe off of Boca Chica beach (5 miles east of Key West), with plans to explore Geiger Creek. As I paddled across the flat leading to the creek I saw several tarpon rolling but couldn't get them to bite anything. I caught a couple of barracudas at the mouth of the creek, then decided it was time to paddle in and see what I could find. I saw a huge cuda loitering under the bridge, but he was just watching me with no interest in biting (I was alternately throwing a zara spook and a DOA shrimp). I started working my way up the creek, and after a couple big snaps from under some mangroves, I anchored up and started pitching the spook.

I saw a huge cuda come out from a spot under the groves, and watched him follow the spook as I walked it across the water until finally BAM he hit it. I fought him for a minute or 2, until he straightened out 2 of the 3 hooks in the treble that had hooked him, and off he went. Dangit! About this time a kayaker came by from upstream, and I asked him if he'd seen any tarpon. Nope, just snapper, he didn't think any tarpon were in that creek. I knew better so I kept pitching the spook. I threw a perfect cast into the mouth of a little side creek and let it flow up under the overhanging mangrove as I twitched it, and BAM another huge hit. Thinking it was another cuda, I set the hook and brought it out into the open water. About that time it jumped, and I realized it was a BIG (3+ foot) tarpon! Sweet!!

The kayaker dude was freaking out because it was jumping all around him and he was afraid it would swamp his kayak, so I did my best to muscle him over my way - I almost fell in during the battle, to his amusement. After about 10 minutes of fighting him I could see he (and I) was getting tired. He'd stopped jumping and would just surge now and then, so I decided it was time to try and release him. I looked away for a moment to grab my boga grip, and he managed to get some slack and simply spit out the hook. Just like that it was over. Tarpon fishing.

I was shaking for an hour or more after that, such a great feeling! I cast a few more times to the same area, but the battle had cleared the water of any fish willing to bite. I paddled over to where the tarpon had hit, just to see what the area looked like and if it looked like a spot that they might always gravitate to. Sure enough there were several more tarpon swimming down below, not as big as the one I'd hooked but there they were, looking like they were at home. Good to know - I'll definitely be back. After that I paddled all the way up the creek, thru the narrow mangrove tunnels and out into the open water. Caught a couple nice snapper at the mouth, and saw a shark swim by but he wasn't biting. I stopped there and had lunch, still shaking from the adrenaline rush of the tarpon fight. Finally I paddled back down the creek and out into the open ocean and enjoyed the nice day, knowing I was a lucky boy.

Where else would I want to be? Nowhere.

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