Once again we are in Boca Grande Florida for tarpon season!
We come down for Hill Tide every year, just like thousands of other people who can’t get enough of the Silver King. We all line up on boats in the Boca Grande Pass to get closer to the rolling monster fish gorging themselves on the crabs down below. We take turns hooking them, fighting them, and admiring their strength. We take photos, we earn bragging rights, and we deal with our sore biceps the day after.
Just like all popular and fun things in life, there will always be some type of controversy. I’m not even going to begin talking about the circle hook situation… Guides take photos of other guides on boats who are supposedly using illegal fishing gear. It’s like high school girls fighting over who’s prettier. I’m an advocate for conservation and doing what’s best for the species, but some of these guys are just out to shame their competitors.
Also, some people are allowing the sharks to eat the tarpon now. I’m not sure what type of person you have to be to allow that to happen, but I’d like to catch them in the act…
This is how it happens. The sharks know where the food is at this time of the year. They circle around the thousands of tarpon in the pass, and when one fish breaks off from the rest of the group, the sharks attack. Typically, the tarpon is tired from fighting against an angler. That tarpon rarely stands a chance against the huge bull sharks and hammerheads that are just feet away, waiting on their chance at an easy meal.
We usually pull the tired fish away from the lingering sharks, revive it properly, and then release it back within proximity to the other fish after it has rested enough. While witnessing a shark attach is an incredible thing, it’s not the right way to get footage if that’s what you’re looking for. Recently I saw video of some guys on a boat in Boca who allowed a shark to demolish a tired tarpon. They had cameras rolling, and it was gruesome. Allowing that to happen without properly trying to save the life of the fish should be punishable.
I understand that sometimes the sharks win. I’ve seen it happen. My biggest tarpon was attacked by a shark in front of me after we had saved it from a different shark. It was beyond our control, but you can guarantee that any of us on that boat would have given all of our efforts to save that fish from being attacked.
We are all out there for the same reasons. We want to fish. Something about the huge trophy game fish and their brute strength calls us back every year. Watching them roll through the pass by the thousands ignites something within our soul that we can’t always explain. I hope that the thrill of watching the sharks attack does not tempt our fellow anglers to stand idly by and watch it happen. I hope they will have more respect for each individual fish than that, and at least give them a fair chance against the predators out there. If men on boats can’t show more respect than that, then they are no better than the sharks in the water. And both deserve to be jabbed with a harpoon.