Ever have something happen during your daily routine that makes you say to yourself “talk about good timing”? Good timing is an understatement when describing what happened to me over the summer. As fishing off paddleboards was a rapidly growing style of fishing, and since I didn’t have the money for a boat, I figured it was a good way to increase the versatility of my fishing. I started hitting all my favorite spots, mangroves, flats, you name it… I wasn’t catching anything. Disappointed? You bet I was! I just dropped a good chunk of cash on this new board that I couldn’t even catch fish off of, but I stayed persistent.
I decided to start fishing for the species that I knew best, tarpon. South Florida in the summertime can’t be talked about without mentioning the tarpon run. This particular Friday afternoon as I strapped my board up to the top of my car, something felt different. After sitting in a pass for an hour on my board, dip-netting crabs, I loaded up my car and went to a different pass that I knew was full of Tarpon. As I was loading my board into the water I noticed a sign reading “Caution, High bacteria levels, Do Not Enter Water”. I’m really glad I didn’t listen.(and I didn’t get sick) As I paddled into the channel I see two massive tarpon cruising a few feet below me, I literally almost fell off my board because they were just so damn intimidating.
After getting into position, I hook up a crab and make my cast for the first drift, not even twenty seconds go by as I turn around to get my GoPro ready, I feel a bump. Tighten up and sure enough the Tarpon made it’s first big jump. This was the point of no return, I’ve never felt my knees shake and go as weak as they did in that moment. It was the most surreal feeling, my first tarpon hookup from my paddleboard and I had no idea what I had just gotten myself into. For about the first 20 minutes it was complete and utter chaos, jumping like crazy, sometimes a little too close to the board for comfort. I thought fishing off of the SUP was no big deal until I hooked up with this tarpon. It crammed every little feeling of comfort I had right down my throat.
Amidst all the beautiful chaos, I noticed a gentleman along the shoreline taking some photos of the fight, not thinking much of it, I gave him a wave and continued to focus on landing the tarpon. After a while the tarpon just hunkered down about 15 feet in front of the board and just took me on a ride. These prehistoric beasts’ strength and power isn’t truly felt until you’re fighting one on a paddleboard, for the next 4o minutes it continued to pull me about a mile down the pass before it tired out.
After finally getting it to come up to the board I snagged a quick photo with my GoPro and released her, then it hit me, a surge of adrenaline like I’ve never felt before. I sat in the middle of the pass on my board screaming at the top of my lungs out of sheer excitement.
As a rain squall was about to move through I decided to begin my paddle back to my car. It wasn’t before long that I heard someone whistling at me from the shore line, it was the man who I saw taking photos of me back where I hooked up with the fish at. I paddled over and he introduced himself as Roger Ierardi, an amateur photographer who just happened to be taking some photos of cloud formations when he saw me hookup with the tarpon. Talk about good timing… As he showed me the photos on his camera my jaw was on the floor, he was nice enough to track me all the way down to where I landed the fish at just so he could get my email and send me the photos.
I’m obviously not the first and only person to catch a plus sized tarpon from a paddleboard, I’m one of many. I’m not an amazing fisherman, but what I was, was in the right place at the right time. A lot of people have fishing experiences like this, but what a lot of people don’t have is the privilege of having it documented. Huge thanks to Roger for capturing one of the most exciting events of my life and giving me the photos of a lifetime. I’m looking forward to chasing some more of these guys next summer. Until then, I’ll just continue to reminisce.