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GENTLEMEN’S ROOM OUTDOORS

tarpon Story | DOUG PIKE

Ever open a present and get far more than you expected? Ever pick a fight and realize with the first swing that you were about to take a serious whipping? Both scenarios define Texas tarpon fishing.

loaded with 40-pound mono or 80-pound braid to medium-heavy boat rods. You’ll need 6 to 10 feet of 100- to 200-pound mono leader, something with a hook in it or on it, a strong back and plenty of time. I like plugs, but dead fish work Many of those pros abandoned to a fabulous new alternative to well and live baits even better. Through the third quarter of slinging jigs in the bay. the fishing business. The rest If Texans lack a skill common the past century, most Texas Millions of collective hours on among Floridians, it is in turned a quick eye to tarpon and anglers knew that tarpon the water later, pros and hundreds presenting live baits to tarpon. did a fantastic job of marketing were “out there” but only fished of devoted amateurs know this the new product. The ironing-board sized them occasionally. Powerful about tarpon: You won’t catch “We didn’t have much fish—little ones—occasionally are and acrobatic as they were, one every time you chase them, choice,” says Capt. James Plaag caught from the beachfront, even these giant—but inedible by but when you do, your first look of Silver King Adventures by waders, but most Texas tarpon most standards—gamefish took likely will be at 6 feet of fish 6 (silverkingadventures.com). windup alongside boats adrift in backseats to tasty speckled trout feet above the surface. “There just weren’t many trout 15-35 feet of water. That’s where and red drum. “Some days, we don’t catch a the warm-water baitfish are. Then came the fourth quarter, left after those freezes.” one,” Plaag says, “but when it’s During the next 10 years, There, and vacuuming up scraps which delivered devastating, sub(with 10 sharks for each of them) freezing blows to coastal fisheries many of the state’s best fishermen right, you might get eight or 10 behind shrimp boats. in 1983 and again in 1989. Dead turned their summertime focus to shots, maybe more.” Migrating south to north If you’ve never caught a fish were counted in the millions, tarpon. The bet paid off in spades. Pressure came off speckled trout, in summer and the reverse in tarpon, put that on your bucket and bay guides could no longer fall, tarpon that run the coast which helped their recovery, and list—right under “Pump some rely on trout and reds to satisfy here average 70-90 pounds and guides’ clients were introduced iron and run a few miles for a their clients. occasionally push (or exceed) few months before you go tarpon 200 pounds. As Texas’ fish go fishing.” Among fish their size, tarpon are fairly common off the entire that “average” is a fully developed Texas coast. Prime season off Galveston is mid-July through early but young tarpon are capable of September, but they’re present for at least a month beyond both wild leaps and long runs before ends of that range. As you move south, the fish arrive a little earlier DOUG PIKE you get the beast boatside for and migrate southward a little later. Doug Pike has traveled photographs and eventual release. the world to satisfy his There are fish that move occasionally into middle- and lowerYou can’t release a fish you passion for the outdoors. coast bays, but the majority of our tarpon remain a short distance During his career, he has don’t catch, of course, and won 100-plus state and offshore. Capt. James Plaag’s crew at Silver King Adventures would that task starts with stout gear. national awards for writing, broadcast be glad to show you the ropes. and photography. Newcomers should match reels

MARCUS POFFENBERGER

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JULY/AUGUST • 2014

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