GO FISHING is a look at the area fishing scene through the eyes of local charter boat captains and fishing guides. Today: Billy Nobles, left, with "Reel Animals" partner Mike Anderson.
Mike and I are in Boca Grande for the months of May and June. This is my 21st season here chasing the silver kings, as well as permit. Folks, this is the weirdest year I have seen, and all of the veterans of Boca Grande agree.
Years ago, you could pattern the fish according to the moon phases, and then it was a three- to four-day pattern. Now, there is no pattern. I have to go back to an article Frank Sargeant wrote a few weeks ago concerning Boca Grande Pass and the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series. I hadn't jig-fished the pass in more than five years, but a long-time client came in and wanted to do just that. It was the first week of May and there were only about 20 boats in there and they were all the guys from the old Miller's days. It was relaxed, easygoing and fun. It was the old days revisited, with everyone having double-digit hookups before lunch. That's the way it's supposed to be.
On the third day, the tournament crowd showed up, driving fast, short drifting other boats, not moving for hooked-up fish, dropping lines on hooked fish, parking scores of boats on top of schools of fish in less than 20 feet of water, hitting a hard reverse and dropping jigs. And these are the professional tarpon fishermen. My clients said, "Now we get it; get us out of here."
Now, it's not professional tournament fishermen's fault; they just don't know any better. There is not a tarpon fishing school that I am aware of, but it sure would be nice if there was. The bad thing is that guys who have fished the pass for years are having to do the same thing, giving credibility to the behavior. Again, not their fault; they have to catch fish for their clients. The clients see the other boats running the fish hard and wonder why their captain isn't doing the same.
The jig is not an evil device; it's the behavior of the fishermen it has ushered in. When the hoards of boats get in there abusing the fish, the fish will only tolerate it so long. They have changed their behavior drastically in this once-great tarpon fishery, but it's still the best place to catch tarpon on the planet.