The Kissing Tarpon

by Lonnie Broome

The Kissing Tarpon

You have probably heard of fisherman who kiss their fish before releasing them to be caught another day? Well, have you heard of the fish who kisses the fisherman, before releasing him to fight another day? This is such a story with my thoughts on fishing.

Fishing has to be a religion to those who crave it, and study it almost continually, at every waking moment. The subject of fishing will become a topic of conversation on almost any given day, as long as you are around others who practice your religion or may like to indulge in what most just consider a past time sport and recreation. Some even have dreams about it. Its not like a hobby, unless you enjoy making your own lures, fixing rod and reels, and constant maintenance on your boat. To some those activities become chores giving you less time to do what you really want to do. Catch that elusive fish you have dreams about or that you have heard about or seen someone else have the pleasure of catching. This story is about one of those type episodes for me and my cousin Ken. In this case he is the catcher and the kissed.

The little 14 foot johnboat Ken had, was a perfect craft for the type fishing we do. It had all one needed for light tackle fishing and in our case happens to be our favorite type of fishing. But on this particular occasion, the lil johnboat was not quite big enough or had enough deck space for Ken, who became a frantic scurrying fisherman who did not relish the thought of losing this particular beast in the beautiful cool clear saltwater of the Everglades Ten Thousand Islands.

It was a beautiful morning, but extremely hot. The only breeze was an emanation from the rapid incoming tide in the Indian Key Pass of Ten Thousand Islands. Believe it or not, the flow of water does make a minute amount of a very welcome breeze. We were situated in the pass that looked as though it should have perfect conditions to battle a tarpon or snook feeding on the baitfish that got sucked into an eddy off of a little point. All a predator fish has to do is position itself in the right spot and the bait fish are forced within its strike zone, as easy prey. So is the technique of an avid angler. You just think like a fish. On most days they don't cooperate or think, like you want them too. That's when you must reinvent your thoughts and frustrations about the wonderful world of fishing and the environment that you expose yourself to in order to practice this religion in a fruitful way.

You learn to enjoy the smells especially the unique smell of rotting vegetation as the mangroves drop their leaves and decay to become constant flow of methane or marsh gas to the olfactory senses. It does become a welcome smell you long for. This gas also seems to help the breeding of the most dreaded of insects known to manmosquitoes and no-see-em's. They breed in this area by the gazillions. You either become accustomed to and in-tune with nature, or you stay out of our paradise. When the breeze does not blow for comfort and to keep the insects out of your immediate domain, you learn to make your own wind within seconds, for the bastard critters swarm every exposed inch of your body while you curse and sweat and try to catch a fish of any kind. At times its all you can do to keep from disturbing the peace with outrage and damnation of all blood sucking pesty creatures, all while in search of the magnificent beast that live below the surface of a beautiful and bountiful body of water. A man or woman must become one with this environment, in order to reap the reward. If not, stay home in the comfort of A/C and T.V. by all means.

If you have recreated yourself and joined this league of hardcore and simple thrill seekers, you have learned to take the good with the bad and ugly. When the fishing is not so good, you keep fishing. You will find that this paradise offers more than the addictive feel of a drag ripping, full of torque, battling for life, fight of a fish on the end of your 12 lb. test line. As you are seeking this thrill, you gaze around at your surroundings and take in the sights and sounds of a magnificent earth of pleasure that I believe God had every intention of his children to enjoy and be proud of.

In this pristine and unscathed wilderness paradise is an abundance of birdlife, land and sea mammals, reptiles, and plant life of unique beauty. If you find yourself getting bored at fishing, you can gaze about and find something to soothe the senses. Once you get accustomed to the place you will find yourself inclined to understand its geological history and the people who have settled in this region over the years. You can daydream about the old hermits that took up homestead or the native Calusa and Seminole Indians that lived in what some would call a barren wilderness to civilized man. I could go on and on about this magnificent place, but I think I was telling a fish story, so pardon me when I get off track.

We were in place and tossing our homemade red and white buck tail jigs using our favorite spinning rigs loaded with Berkley Big Game 12 lb. test line on six foot one piece heavy action rods. Ken was in front of the johnboat operating the trolling motor, which has its angler advantages if you like to work the trolling motor fighting a swift current. We had assumed that the fish were not particularly active that day, as we did not see many baitfish working the area. Well, like I said before, you just keep fishing or daydreaming, regardless of fish activity. After about 100 cast and my wrist was getting sore, I had laid my rod down for a break to daydream or piss and moan about the fish not biting, Ken had a strike. This strike commenced to ripping out line by the yards in short fashion. My instinct as was Kens by his frantic yell, was to crank the boat and be prepared to pursue. It was only a few seconds and he was almost at the end of the line on his reel. He anxiously requested that I shorten the distance of his angle pronto. I just eased along as I was watching the angle of the line while navigating the current. Suddenly out of the blue, leaped a very large tarpon and my first weight guess estimate was 100+ lbs. this beast was huge and ones first assumption is a fisherman is not likely to land this monster on 12 lb test line. Excitement and a understandable feeling of mild anxiety about possible developments, automatically fills the air in moments like this as Ken was displaying these emotions. I was trying to keep him cool and reassure him that we were close enough! He said "get closer or I'll lose him", I said "OK, getting closer maestro", after all, truth be told, he is the master that taught me the fine art of fishing.

This is the adrenal pumping action of fishing, and it is very addictive and only one who has experienced this activity will go to any lengths of torture, to repeat it. Watching this action is almost as fun as the catch itself, especially being right there, up close and personal like. Watching, you become one with the fisherman and the fish. You feel the fight between both and wonder who will win. After watching this magnificent brut of a fish (up real close), on several occasions, fly completely out of the water thrashing and twisting, constantly trying to unleash the object of resistance, I said, "I think we are just getting a little too close to this booger". You could almost hear it snortin its anger. Then Ken saying, "we are not close enough, its rippin out line faster than I can reel it in". OK, closer and closer to the angle I get. I could see this and I don't believe my cousin and best fishin buddy could focus on this factor. Well, it was at a magical moment that I'll never forget. The tarpon came flying out of the water, right at the front of the boat and kissed Ken right under the chin knocking him down and land almost in his lap, in the boat. Then the fish commenced to thrashing about with a purpose of destroying anything in its path, mainly numerous rods and reels laying about the deck. In seconds flat, we managed to toss this beast back into the water, free at last. It took us several minutes to regroup and relive the thrill of this victory as it was. You just don't have time sometimes, to take photo's. I was sort of disappointed that the fight was over, with nothing for record except our memory. I believe it took me longer to come down from the rush than Ken. As we were straightening out the rod and reels, checking for damage and preparing for the next battle, lying in the bottom of the boat was Kens only record (and my memory) of this catch and release, was a giant silver dollar size scale of this fantastic battle between man and fish. it's a good thing to kiss and release, unless of course you are very hungry. L Broome

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