Tarpon – Jump 1

The south end of the caye forms a big crescent. Here the water seems almost stagnant, tea-stained. We might call it frog water anywhere else. Stare long enough into the depths and the bottom appears to move. Move it does, as tight schools of tiny baitfish swim along giving the appearance of a solid bottom. It only then that the full implications of this place come clear: either bait are here to spawn on the big columns of algae that tower upwards along the margins, or they have been herded in here at first light by schools of tarpon. It doesn’t take long before the tarpon come back up to gulp air, before slowly returning down deep. Wounded bait float in the water column. In late afternoon, the tarpon are rolling everywhere; in the middle deeps, along the edges and on the flats that surround the hole. In the morning the bait fish skitter along the surface, sounding like waves of rain. Look under the boat and tarpon might be seen slowly cruising through the masses, scattering them in every direction. Everything seems slow here. Maybe it’s the heat.

Come here at first light and see pelicans and other birds raining out of the sky. Tarpon slash across the flats in a surface frenzy that might last five minutes before things settle into a slow, day-long pace.

Cast to where a pod of 70 pound fish has just surfaced, a slow strip, maybe two… or maybe it happens on the sink. The grab is hard, the first jump chaotic and loud. If the hook holds through the first jump, then there’s a good chance of bringing one boatside. If not, there’s the rush of four to five feet of fish airborne and heading for Cuba before it all goes quiet and slow again.

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