Me with my first "small" tarpon in Florida Bay, caught on the fly
I live in the sportfishing capital of the world. Millions of people fly halfway around the globe each year just to get out on the emerald waters of Florida Bay and try their luck with a rod and reel. Deeper water charters run trips for sailfish, kings, grouper, mahi, and tuna, but in my opinion the best bang for your buck is running off Islamorada and into the bay for the Altantic tarpon (Megalops atlanticus). These "silver kings" as they're called, can reach lengths up to 8 feet and weigh up to 350 lbs. Dive bars and fishing outposts line their walls with vintage photographs of the historic fights that famous anglers, actors, sports heroes, and past presidents have had while fishing for these coastal monsters.
Once on the line, a tarpon is known to explode out of the water in attempts to break the line or shake the hook. This the angler's most tense moment and as well, the reason they came to the Keys.
A few weeks ago, coworker Adam Chasey and I set out to film and photograph tarpon for a short documentary series we're working on with National Audubon and Disney. Knowing that we didn't have the time or money to invest in a month-long trial and error process of hiring fishing guides, we went to the one place we knew we could find the megalops.
For years, Robbie's Marina has been known as the tarpon hotspot. With access to both Florida Bay and the Atlantic ocean coupled with a constant stream of fishing charters disposing of their leftovers, tarpon arrive in droves along with jacks, snapper, and of course, brown pelicans.
The image I envisioned was a tarpon lunging out of the blue water with jaws open straight towards the camera. I didn't know how I would accomplish this considering the logistics of enticing a wild tarpon to jump, or the risk of losing another camera, or even just battling the hot Florida sun for hours on end, but I welcomed the challenge. Check out the next Venture Out! video to see how we did it.