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Downtown Miami fishing skyline, Fishing 150 Pound Tarpon-true story...

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"Capt. Alex Rodriguez, Matt and the 80lb. Tarpon" - "Capt. Alex Rodriguez, Jack and the 35lb. tarpon

It was about 11pm on Tuesday, 04-27-04, my buddy Matt had just fought and landed an 80-pound tarpon. Capt. Alex Rodriguez, our captain and fishing guide, estimated the weight of Matt's fish and I have learned not to question him. I challenged Capt. Alex, the fishing guide, on the weight of a smaller tarpon earlier, I said it was 50 pounds he said it was 35, we weighed it with my 0-50 lb. scale

and the fish was in fact 35 lbs. exactly! Alex said, "I told you Bro, I have been doing this a long time, I know how big these fish are!" I did not know it at the time, but I was about to be very glad that Alex could estimate the weight of tarpon so well. You see after we took a few digital pictures of Matt's fish, revived it and let it go, it was my turn to try and hook a nice tarpon. Hook a nice tarpon I did!  We drifted my bait about 30 ft. off the shoreline of the beautiful  homes built along Haulover Inlet near downtown Miami.

 The night was peaceful until there was an explosion in the water! A huge tarpon attacked my bait and shot like a torpedo across the surface of the water. When I felt the weight of the fish on my line I set the hook. Alex said, "Hit him again!" So I hit him again. Alex said, "Hit him one more time!" So I set the hook one more time. The tarpon must have finally noticed that he was stuck because all of a sudden the massive fish made a powerful run that stripped off at least 100 yards of the 40 pound strength Stren Super-braid that was spooled on my reel.  At the end of the run, the great fish shot straight up out of the water like a dolphin doing tricks at Sea World. Even at 100 yards away this fish looked massive. Alex said, "Bro that is a big fish. We got to catch up to him. I am going to follow him with the boat, but you have to keep the heat on him!"  Alex pulled up the trolling motor and started to follow the massive fish with the gas motor.  The fish was strong and was steadily headed in shore.  At about the 30-minute mark of the fight, Alex said, “This is good, we are lucky this fish went in shore.  He will wear himself out in the shallow water.”  It was as if the fish heard Capt. Alex, "our fishing guide." It was at that moment; the fish turned and slowly started to head out to sea.  “Keep the heat on him Bro, turn  him!” Alex said.  “This fish does not do much that he does not want to do!” I replied.  About that time the fish made a short run and busted out of the water AGAIN.  “Oh no, that is not good!” Alex said.  “What’s wrong,” I moaned. “That fish has got his second wind and he is headed straight for those fisherman’s lines over on the shore!  We have to turn him or he will hang up in those lines.  I will run the boat up between him and the shore, that should turn him, but you can not let slack in the line!  Reel like there is no tomorrow!”  Alex commanded.  So I did, I reeled as fast as I could!  Alex put the boat between the fish and the shore and the fish turned just as Alex predicted.  We all breathed a sigh of relief, but our rest was short lived.  The fish must have felt the strong incoming tide ripping through the inlet, and he stuck his nose into it and started pulling us out to sea like a sled dog making a push across the snowy plains of Alaska. This was about the 45-minute mark of the fight. The bridge over the inlet was still far in the distance, but the massive tarpon was making a bee-line for it, and there was nothing I could do!  Alex said, “Bro, you have to keep him off the pylons!  If he makes the pylons he will break us off!”  Again I said, “This fish does not do much that he does not want to do!”  And still the great fish headed out to sea.  He was pulling our boat and us 3 fishermen, he was headed into a strong incoming tide, and still he gained ground.  I pulled and he pulled back.  I did get some line back, but only because Alex can run the boat faster than the fish can swim, or at least faster than the fish was swimming.  As hard as we tried, we could not get him to turn from his designated course.  Within 15 minutes, the fish made it to the bridge, passed through the pylons and continued his quest for the open sea.  We were on one side of the bridge’s fenders and the fish had passed through to the other.  We could not follow him, and it did not appear that we could convince him to come back.  Actually, the fact that he was still headed straight out to sea gave me a glimmer of hope.  Alex said, “Oh no Bro, you just lost the fish of your life!”  I said, “I have not lost him yet!  He is still on the line and steady headed out to sea.”  Alex said, “No he is not, you are just hung on the fenders.”  “NO I AM NOT!” I reiterated.  At this point we were up against the pylons.  With one hand I held the rod, with the other I held us off the pylon. “Take the wheel Matt, I want to feel Jack’s line. ” Alex ordered. “Bro, you still got this fish on!” Alex exclaimed with the enthusiasm of a kid on Christmas morning!  “I told you!” I replied. “I could climb up on the pylons and you could hand me the rod,” Matt suggested, not thinking anyone would seriously consider this option. “Yeah Bro, I think that would be the best idea.” Alex replied.  Not really having time to reconsider, Matt climbed up and over.  I held us in place, Alex handed the rod through and up to Matt and then resumed control of the boat.  I pushed us off. 

We drifted back and then Alex shot us back up the other side right below where Matt was situated.  And still the fish was headed out to sea.  Matt handed the fishing poll back to me. Alex had to pull the boat back do to the strong current.  “Sorry Matt, we are going to have to leave you there for a few minutes while I try to land this fish!” I yelled as we motored to the middle of the channel.  “You better catch that Damn fish!” he yelled back.  We were now about 1 hour and 15 minutes into the fight.  We were in the channel, and there were rock jetties on both sides. “OK Bro, you have to keep him off the rocks!” Alex said as he regrouped and assessed the situation.  I think the fish thought he had lost us.  I set the hook again just to make sure he still knew I was on the other end of the line.  He was finally starting to get tired.  He slowly was losing ground.  For the first time I felt like we were winning the fishing fight.  He started to falter in the current, so he cut across the channel and surfed the tide until I caught up to him at the back of the boat.  But even with the current helping him, he did not pull like before.  He circled the boat in the other direction. 4 times he tried this maneuver, each time I was right there with him.  From the front of the boat to the back of the boat, every time he circled I pulled him closer and closer to the boat.  Finally the great fish came to the surface.  With just small movements like a flag in the night’s breeze, the fish swam in the current.  I reeled the fish up until I got to the leader. He was right beside the boat now, in plane view.  He was huge.  We guessed he was 12 inches from eye to eye across the top of his head.  He looked to be about 8 feet long in the water.  “Bro, that fish will go 150 pounds!” Alex exclaimed!  I believed him, but I did not care.  I had been fighting this great fish now for 1 hour and 30 minutes and I was worked!  “150 pound tarpon, on 40 pound test line,” I thought.  At that moment, the fish just turned his massive head, flipped his tail just a bit, and my reel came alive AGAIN.  The fish pulled off enough drag to make it to the bottom again, but he did not have much left after that.  Still, I had to pull 150 pounds of tarpon off the bottom of Haulover Inlet in a still very strong running incoming tide.  The fish drifted back with the current, and when I got him to the surface again he was behind the boat about 10 feet.  “JUST GIVE UP!” I yelled at the fish.  As if to say, “NO” the fish shook his big head violently back and forth and then it was over! My arms, so used to feeling the weight of this fish playing tug of war with my line, suddenly felt NOTHING.  He was gone!  A few cranks of my reel later I saw my empty hook.  The 90-minute fight was over, and some of me was glad. “Bro, you had him!  If you get to the leader you have him!  This is good.  I wasn’t sure what we were going to do with him anyway.  Matt is back on the pylons, and we would have needed his help to get the fish in!” Alex explained.  “It’s cool, I would LOVE to have gotten a picture with the fish, but we were going to let him go anyway,” I sighed.  “That was a hell of a fight! I cannot imagine any other fishing guide doing what you did to make that happen! That was INCREADABLE!" I said.  “Yeah Bro, you did GREAT!  You did everything right. If you had lost that fish on the pylons, I would have bitched at you.  But you didn’t so I am not going to bitch at you!  You fought him and you did everything right, there was nothing more you could do Bro, that was awesome.”  “Thanks man, that was the best fight of my life, and the biggest fish of my life,” I said.  “Well you can tell anyone you caught a 150 pound tarpon, and you know I know Bro!”  Alex said.  “Yes I know you know,” I replied.  “Let’s go get Matt,” he said.  When we came back for Matt he said, “Where is the fish!” “He got off the hook,” I replied.  “Well get me down from here, this place reeks of pelican pooh!” Matt exclaimed.  We got Matt down, we lined up for one more drift and I said, “You fish, I am tired!”


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Story written by Life Member of the North American Fishing Club Jack E. Armantrout of Richmond, Virginia - Customer and now friend


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