Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Palolo Hatch

Kingfish and snapper at Bud n Mary's Marina

Islamorada has gained international recognition as the sportfishing capitol of the world. Twice a day, reports come on the radio from captains all across the Keys boasting how 8-year olds and arthritic retirees are landing fish. Lots of fish. It seems everyone down here has a glorious story about landing a monster tarpon or snook. I will go ahead and blame it on the cold snap, which killed all the fish, because I just can’t cope with the idea that I’m so remedial or unlucky as to stay in the Cub Scout status of Keys’ merit badges with my one mangrove snapper.

A palolo worm and hand-tied fly to mimic the pattern

Just last week the famous palolo worm hatch came to a close. During the full and new moon phases in May and June these guys come out of the hard coral to spawn in the ocean side of the Florida Keys. Instinctually, they head in the same direction until reaching their breeding grounds. Giant tarpon gather by the hundreds to eat these tasty little creatures and following the foodchain, so do the anglers.

Anglers on Atlantic side of the Florida Keys waiting for rolling tarpon

Pete Frezza blind casting for tarpon

Pete Frezza, a local guide and biologist, took me out to see the last leg of the palolo hatch in hopes of catching a tarpon on the fly. We poled around for a few hours along the shallow banks but the worms proved sparse and the tarpon skittish.

After the motor died, Pete push-poled us to a spot on the flats

We decided to cut our losses and head for the flats to do some bonefishing, but on the way, the engine made a clicking sound and shut off. We were stuck. A few miles from the boat ramp, poling along would have landed us home around midnight so we decided to call for a towboat.

Water abstract

A Florida Gator fan at heart, I love orange and blue anything.

While we waited, I made some images of the metallic patterns of the setting sun reflected in the water, quickly turning a disaster into an interesting photo opportunity.

A slow stripping motion with the fly line mimics the movement of the palolo worm

Perhaps it was my fault; my karma for proudly posing with a dead tarpon in January. I obviously have no business fishing in the Florida Keys. Maybe I should just leave the saltwater angling to the pros and geriatrics.  

Our rescuers, TowBoatUS

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