I always respect my elders.
By Stan Off the Hook
By Stan Off the Hook
It is hard to believe, that just a week ago my wife and I decided to escape the frozen tundra of New York City and the brutal 1°F temperature that we were growing accustomed to. The plan was a simple one, buy airline tickets, get on plane, enjoy the five-hour flight to Puerto Rico. And enjoy the consistent perfect temperature of 80°F, sadly only for 3 days.
My main form of recreation is really my only one, Fishing. One of my goals in life is to fish in every state and/or country I happen to be in at that time. So I could not resist the opportunity. About a week out, I decided that I would hire a guide, it is so much simpler this way. You do not have to lug all your fishing rods. Which usually means a trip to the luggage check-in and additional flight costs. Through my research I came across Capt. Omar, fishinginPuertoRico.com. I soon realized that he was the real deal. Omar and his lovely wife Elvia run an amazing guide service, Caribbean Outfitters. They have 2 boats, one of which is a deep-sea fishing boat with all the state-of-the-art equipment. The other is the Tarpon sniper a speedy boat that is loaded with all the state-of-the-art fish finding equipment, and top-of-the-line fishing tackle. Everything possible to achieve our goal, and that is to catch Tarpon. (Oh, I almost forgot to mention the 4 fishing kayaks, all caring fish finders as well. Next time.) So we made our plan.
We agreed to meet at the Marina at 6 AM, however I am always nervous and do not sleep well the night before a planned fishing trip. So as a result I am always 30 min. early. There is nothing worse than having a guide show up late, or hung-over. I could not believe it Omar was 30 minutes early, sober and ready to go. So off we went.
Omar is truly one of the hardest working guides I have ever had the privilege to fish with. The 1st thing we did was go to the creeks that run into the lagoon to net fresh live bait. He knew exactly where to find it, and that he did. Not too soon after we were on the fish. After dead drifting our liveliness, the 1st hookup occurred just off the mouth of the creek in the lagoon. I was surprised at how subtle the Tarpon gulped the bait, then quietly attempted to swim off, then realizing that it has been hooked and the drag begins to zing, the tension builds in the rod, with your heart pounding, the fish is pushing water creating wake, then 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, there it is eye level. My 1st hook up with a Tarpon ever. Sadly for me, as quietly as it took the bait it loudly shook the hook. Not too soon after we were back in business finally my 1st Tarpon.
When the tide and the water started to move things got really crazy. We had 4 lines out with a nice drift, with Rod in hand and the familiar tranquility of a slow moment in fishing, it always seem to happen when you least expect it. The sound of drag zinging, and all hell braking loose on the deck, it was a tripleheader! With eye level Jumps, Tarpon everywhere. Unfortunately the fish on my line broke off, after examining the line it looked like the Tarpon ran the leader over the rocky bottom and severed it in half, no pig tail. It happens, I just don’t like leaving hooks in the fish's mouth, neither does Omar. He really teaches you about the fish, what the fishery means to him and Puerto Rico. Sadly we only had time for one more drift.
We started our last drift off the mouth of the lagoon and the main channel that leads back to the marina. As soon as we started the drift with the line half Hartley tossed out, just at the tip of a slight drop, as if Omar had planned it this way. Planned the conclusion of the trip.with the familiarity of the Tarpon taking the line off the reel. I began to reel back letting her set the hook, watching the wake of the fish pushing through the water with tension building and drag zing, finally causing the tarpon to revile itself, amazingly. I almost forgot to give the fish the rod as it propelled itself in the air trying desperately to shake its head free. I realized that this was the biggest fish I have ever hooked in my life. It jumped 6 or 7 times before I got it close to the boat. I have never felt the power of such a fish, she would get close to the boat and then dive deep, only to run off again to do another leap. This went on for a good 10 or 15 min. it seemed like a lifetime to me, an endless moment, it was not purgatory or hell or even heaven for that matter. It was a moment in life. The way you are supposed to live it.
Finally Omar was able to put the net under her and lift her into the boat. I am not too sure how much this Tarpon actually weighed, Maybe 40 to 50 or 30 pounds, but the burning in my back told me that she weighed a lot. It suddenly became a matter of life and death to the fish, we frantically worked to get the hook out of her mouth and I posed for the photo, and here it is the biggest fish I ever caught.
And back she goes, to spawn and eat, and fight another day. I learned that Tarpon could live to be over 70 years old. I always respect my elders.