When you target a major game fish, you need to dredge up all that elusive element of patience you have in your being. And that all can come to pass, when you’ve set your sights on that sizable creature, anywhere in the world. It can be a tarpon or a big permit around these parts or billfish in the deep seas off the coasts.
A real life example of that occurred a few years back when a bunch of your local charter captains took a “busman’s” holiday and arranged a charter trip to the Keys. Enough of the snapper and grouper fishing trips in the Gulf, we would shoot for the premiere fish on the planet — the blue marlin.
The four of us were psyched. First for the day away and secondly for our seldom experienced chance with a sport fish that can easily exceed two to three hundred pounds. Quite a change of pace from two pound snapper.
Loaded down with a tub of foot long sandwiches and liters of liquid libation, we set sail with a charter captain buddy into the turbid waters of the Atlantic. We were hell bent for a day that, we hoped, would live in the record books of blue water fishing.
We ran east into a challenging sea, as the mate readied the trolling rigs that would be deployed as soon as we reached the edges of the northbound Gulf Stream. Time ticked away gracefully as we made our way through, now more challenging seas, to the “stream” where the water turned a deep indigo and heated up another seven to eight degrees Fahrenheit.
Patience was with us at least up to this point. After all, we had all day and we’d have fish on post haste. (To quote the quite disfunctional mate).
Finally, the engines dropped to an idle; the outriggers were deployed and a spread of trolling baits in an amazing display of muti-colored weighted vinyl set shallow and deep. The engines fired back up and away we went settling in at aggressive trolling speed. We each were given a time slot as to our shot in the fighting chair and even the saltiest of our gang was excited at the prospect of the scream of the Penn International reel and a cry of “fish on.”
First hour or so you’re all full of hope; second hour, those seeds of doubt sneak in and you hear questions of the mate and captain like, “You guys have any blues this past week?” ... ”Hear any reports from other boats?” Still hope runs high.
Third hour the mate changes all the trolling baits and the captain runs in a different direction. You just look one another and ask for another libation. Could be that this is one of those days ... you think the thought to yourself with nary an utterance.
We’re now in the fifth hour and things are getting serious. Guys leave the cockpit and you can tell ordinary conversation is strained. The captain comes down off the bridge and, in sour humor, begins to make excuses. Everyone yawns and decides to polish off the last of the foot-longs and libation ... We’ve been on the water for over seven hours and the mate readies for a final retrieve of the trolling gear.
And just then, the gods smiled as the port outrigger went off with a screaming reel. It was like a scene from “Mr. Roberts” at General Quarters as the lucky designate jumped in the chair and the fight was on. Back and forth went the give and take as the time drained well beyond our chartered time with three guys just watching and one guy making his “bones.”
Finally as the sun began to head for the horizon, our designate brought a nice two hundred pound class blue marlin to leader; took some photos and made the release.
Someone said on the way back, ”We had patience alright; but what did it get us?”
You certainly learn from that experience and try to avoid and discourage those fishing “target” missions whenever possible. But that is not always possible.
It wasn’t but a couple of months ago, that we had the tarpon running around here and faced those ‘target” seekers with the same big game ideas.
I remember one such occurrence most vividly.
A “now generation” dad called one evening and express his desire to take his two sons on a charter trip so they could both get their “first tarpon.” Now, tarpon fishing, when you have a silver king solidly on the line, is beyond description but the down time waiting for the strike is the Achilles hell.
So, expecting the sons, to be at least mid teen, I asked, politely, the ages of the boys he wanted to impress. “The oldest is Donald and he’s 9 and the little guy is Drew and he’s 7.”
I tried valiantly to explain the boredom, especially for kids, in the downtime with chum and bait in the water, as you wait for a strike, that is, if you get one at all.
“Nothing doing; we want to fish for tarpon.”
So we did. We set up with all the right conditions, baits and chums and waited, and waited.
Nine year olds and seven year olds at their very best are not ready for this. First they played with the poor bait shrimp. Next they worked on my tackle box rearranging the contents and, typical of little boys, began pelting one another when running out of other diversions.
The kids patience ran out about 30 minutes after setting baits; their father’s was about to hit the wall when, just like on my marlin trip, one of the rods went off and a tarpon leaped skyward.
Dad jumped on the rod almost knocking the bewildered boys over and proceeded to do his thing in trying to land the leaping package of piscatorial energy. When asking to help, he told the boys to sit and ‘watch dad.”
I was going to remind our Now Generation “rod-hog” that it was his boys who he wanted to have the experience of landing a tarpon, but thought better of it. But the experience didn’t take long anyway, as the tarpon leapt; dad yanked and it was over.
Bottom line, targeting those major fish, takes a lot of doing to say nothing of the long suffering patience. Suggestion: leave the targets to someone else and take that rod and reel and go for what’s “running.” The smaller fish will fill your fishing appetite especially on light tackle and keep your patience in the tank for something more important.
Capt. Bill Walsh owns an established Marco Island charter fishing business and holds a current U.S. Coast Guard license. Send comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.