Paddling for Tarpon

A silver king on a yak? Great short story and excellent video for the finish.

From where we stood one could barely see an image reminiscent of the Old Man and the Sea, despite our disadvantage, for nearly two hours we watched as the epic battle unfolded.

At sea, nearly a nautical mile from land, a tan lanky angler, precariously positioned in the back sit of the thirteen-foot long yellow Mohawk canoe fought the fish of his young life. A die-hard surfer, each of his rail-like thin legs were neatly draped over the thin fiberglass vessel's gunnels. He seemed completely at ease; even-though he'd only borrowed the canoe from me a couple of hours earlier. It was his maiden voyage; previously Lance Crouch had been a "paddling for tarpon" virgin! After it was all said and done, he pulled his great catch to the beach, killed it and took it home and soon hung that stuffed tarpon, all 108 pounds on his wall! The only tarpon he ever harvested.

Tarpon on a Kayak

Bob Rohmann caught this silver king off Satellite Beach, Florida in July

Looking back those thirty years to that late summer afternoon, in many ways it's difficult to imagine going back. Catch and release ethics have become second nature to the majority of serious anglers, and life-like fiberglass mounts have replaced the need to kill a single trophy fish. Today it is so rare to hear of a tarpon being taken from the wild and I can't tell you of a single fish killed since to be mounted on a wall, and we've caught thousands in the past three decades.

However, the great exodus of migrating tarpon continues to invade Florida's Space Coast late each summer and there is a growing number of anglers paddling for majestic poons.

Today we know the Indian River Lagoon system's inshore coastal waters are perhaps the tarpon's single most critical spawning area. A huge female, the largest ever caught, over 300 pounds, was said to be taken from the IRL's southern region in a gillnet years ago. The breeding schools congregate near the IRL's ocean inlets to spawn each summer. Their eggs hatch at sea and the eel-like larvae drift into the IRL's blackish estuaries to mature.

Like the tarpon, each year anglers flock to the IRL's beaches for a chance to wrangle with a silver king. All you need for success is the desire, the proper tackle and a little knowledge to get started and a kayak, canoe or paddleboard to reach the fish!

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