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Tarpon fishing

Tarpon fishingTarpon fishing with rod and reel is a modern sport of comparatively recent date; twenty years ago no attempt had been made to take it by this method. Today, angling for this magnificent fish has become an established recreation in the famous resorts where they abound; many clubs have been formed in which members have strict rules whereby tackle shall not exceed that used in other game fishing. The first tarpon Taking taken in this way was by Wm. S. Jones of Philadelphia, at the Indian River Inlet. It weighed 130 pounds and was six feet in length, fighting the angler over two hours before it was brought to gaff. The incident aroused much interest among anglers all over the country, and Jupiter Bay soon became a pilgrimage of determined fishermen bent on trying their luck on so formidable a foe. That they were there, ready to receive them, was proved, and a season rarely passes by, that the total catch does not foot up 300 to 400 fish.

This Indian River, so called, is in reality a beautiful lagoon, or inland sea, of varying depth and width, fairly alive with fish; the river bed in parts is a solid mass of oysters and other shell-fish, but the great attraction that draws the tarpon, sharks, and other monsters, is the vast shoals of mullet upon which they feed. All down the river, from the mouth of the St. Lucie past Fort Pierce, I saw these lively mullet, like little streaks Rivern of molten silver, shoot above the surface of the glassy water. Sometimes I observed a great dark form dash away from our sailboat driving the little mullet into the air, hundreds at a time. The Indian River inlet is, at the mouth of Jupiter Bay, not over a mile in width, but in the deep blue water one sees great monsters wallowing, very few feet from the shore.

Lake Worth lies but five miles southward; from there down to Miami, round the peninsula, to Fort Myers, and Tampa, the tarpon is found in its greatest abundance. Other localities made famous by anglers are Captiva Pass, Boca Grande Pass; Marco, Naples, Pine Island, and Homasossa. On the Louisiana coast the tarpon is called the grande ecaille; along the Texas shore the tarpon, and savanilla. The tarpon is a migratory fish, moving north along the coast of Mexico up to Louisiana. They appear around Migration the Florida coast early in February, increasing rapidly in numbers in March, April, and May, entering rivers sometimes ten miles from the mouth. The tarpon first arrives in Aransas Pass, Texas, early in March, coming up the coast in schools from the South, journey-ing onward along the coast to Galveston and other points. From the middle of April they congregate in that locality in large numbers, but will not take the bait, apparently this being their spawning season. The latter part of May and June they take the mullet readily.

The tarpon is said to attain a length of over eight feet and a weight of 400 pounds; as a food fish it is of no value, and only the larger specimens are kept for mounting as trophies, the smaller ones being released to grow and be caught on a size future occasion. Some are so injured during the combat that they are retained, and the beautiful scales taken off to be sold by dealers as souvenirs.

Many scales are now used as postal cards, the lucky anglers sending them to distant friends, writing name, date and weight of fish on the inside. The tarpon is, in its habits, a wanderer and a voracious feeder upon mullet, sardines, and other small fry, dashing into thick schools, devouring Habits enormous quantities, going into shallow bays, and up various rivers m search of prey. To the seine fisherman it is a dangerous fish to catch, tearing and smashing the nets to shreds in its leaps and efforts to escape. A first view of the tarpon is a sight not easily forgotten; in cruising 'round the Florida coast you see an enormous mass of shining light, like a blanket of silver dollars; up it goes high into the air, sometimes twenty or thirty of them, and you may sail right in the midst of them and fish for days before you catch one; at other times the first cast is rewarded by a magnificent strike that sends the shivers right through you. At times there is no question but that the sport is dangerous, even hair raising.

Incidents are recorded where the fish leap head­long into the boat. If first seen at close quarters, especially front view, with wide-open Dangerous jaws and blood-red gills, it is a most sinister object, as ugly a customer as one wants to meet. Its large eyes glare, its lower jaw protrudes, highly suggestive of a determined nature to smash things in general, and the novice trembles for a time, wishing he were safe on shore. The tarpon is a long, slender, thin fish of the herring type. Its tail is deeply forked, a powerful organ by which it leaps; the upper portion of the back is of a metallic purple-blueish cast; the rest of the body iridescent silver. Its scales are remarkably large, some on the big fish being 3.5 x 3 inches, the exposed half seeming to have been dipped in molten silver and then frosted.

One of the largest fish taken was that by Dr. Howe at Tampico, Mexico. It weighed 223 pounds, had a length of 7 feet, 2 inches, and girth of 46 inches. In a little less than a month's fishing a famous English rodster, W.H. Grenfell, took 100 fish at Boca Grande. But this is a record not often reached; it is only in a few localities, and very seldom, that they are really plentiful.

Most of the dealers have now a regulation tarpon tackle; everything can be got in the large cities to fit the angler out for the fray. Von Hofe has a special rod, reel, and line of their own make. A member of the firm having held the world's record for a time makes it a surety that their experience may be relied on to furnish tackle that suffices. But tastes differ somewhat, both as to length of rod and thickness of line; those inclined to be humanly reasonable use longer rods and lighter lines; such a rod may be 7 feet long, having a single long tip and short butt, made either of green heart, snake wood, or noib-wood; the latter has come to be a favorite wood among certain anglers, being firm, close, and of elastic fibre, yet remarkably light.

The Rod standard tarpon rod of split bamboo, 7 feet long, weighing 26 ounces, has been known to take a 600-pound fish. Of course, the difficulties in landing large fish increase with the length of the rod; it is wise to possess two or more rods (if the angler's pockets are deep enough), and they should be kept in a stiff leather case made for the purpose. For such fishing it would be the height of absurdity to use a common or cheap reel. Twenty-five dollars up to $60, is none too much to pay, and it must hold 600 feet of wet No. 21 Cuttyhunk line, or good linen of equivalent size. It should be fitted with a good drag and have a leather or rubber thumb pad (former preferred), fastened to the crossbar to press against the line. In the matter of lines the angler will do well to have several of various sizes, the novice beginning with No. 25; as he becomes expert he can use No. 21. Skilful anglers have taken the largest fish on No. 18, which is as light as possible, with safety.