Four Crabs…Three Fish

Nick and I had the plan in place. It was time for another short evening trip. We didn’t even have to leave work early. A late hill tide, crab flush and fairly calm seas was the recipe for tarpon, at least in our minds.

After meeting up at the marina at five thirty, we loaded up what little gear is normally brought for our “short trips” and moved out as quickly as possible. After heading out of the channel, Nick and I quickly figured out the plan for calm seas was out. The bay wasn’t filled with white caps but the rollers were like being in a washing machine, spaced out and with no particular pattern. The tide was moving out fast and the west sea breeze had kicked in. These conditions are par for the course when we fish. It never fails, but if successful, the ride is worth it. If not, you’re all wet.

Following an uncomfortable ride we make it to the Skyway Bridge and start looking for crabs. Having no bait is a bad feeling, so we scoured the waters for a few pass crabs to start fishing with; more would float by later. After agreeing that four was the magic number to start fishing with, the dip nets were out and the four crabs we needed had their claws removed and were in the livewell.

The boat was set up to account for the wind and tide and made for a great drift through the weedline, covering major ground. My first cast was out, taking the pass crab for a ride through the rough water, further out than I thought. Next thing I know, line is pulling off the spool and ripped through the skin on my thumb, barely allowing me to close the bail. After closing the bail with a bloody thumb, the battle began.

Being that a good amount of braid was already out, I had to regain some line and in between, try to keep the numerous jumps of the fish from throwing the hook. Nick drove me closer to the tarpon, threw it in neutral, and we let the fish do most of the work, pulling the boat against the tide, wearing her out. Mainly staying on top of the water and out of the channel, we made short work of this silver king after about twenty minutes and had her boatside for a few photos. What a stout fish! After reviving her, the boat was quickly positioned for another drift. That was crab number one.

On the second drift, Nick threw his crab out and I set up on the bow to look for more bait. After no luck I figured I would fish crab number three, as Nick had number two on his hook. On this second drift rolling tarpon were visible in the distance, and our crabs were heading right for them. Nick gets bit so I reeled in and cranked up the motor. After two jumps the fish spit the hook and swam free. That was a heartbreaker, but we had a good drift down. That was crab number two.

Nick and I made a few more drifts and had no luck. Not wanting to be out on the water too late, and thirsty for a few frosty beverages, the plan was one more drift through the weedline. I still had our third pass crab alive on my hook and he had placed the last bait securely on his hook. We worked our drift and were just about out of the strike zone when his phone rang. After a brief conversation with a loved one, Nick gets off the phone and we plan to call it a day, that is after Nick reeled in the fish that had his Redbone doubled over in the rod holder.

After getting out of the way and putting Nick on the bow, I drove around while taking pictures and chasing the fish down. This king made some great jumps but didn’t run as much as the first two. The girl liked the bottom of the channel more than the top of the water column, so Nick and I pretty much sat idle while he played tug of war. After some acrobatics by this hefty fish and a few leader grabs, she was boatside and released, again, after about twenty minutes.

Crab number four was gone, and crab number three got thrown back in the bay.

The wind had calmed down; we toasted with a couple of beers and reflected on another great trip. Riding back to the marina in calm seas with the sun just starting to set was the perfect ending.

Four crabs and three fish.

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