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Florida: Tarpon

While on spring break with my family, I snuck in a quick morning outing with Alex Harmon ( out of Key West for tarpon and sharks. Alex has put clients on plenty of each over the years and a tarpon, along with a white shark and a blue marlin, is one of the sport fish I most wanted to add to my species list.

The tarpon bite started early and Alex put us in a huge school of several hundred. After hooking a few, only to have them spit the hook or break off in the school, I finally had one stay on. The fight was everything I hoped it would be. It leapt four or five times and took many runs. After a long fight, I had finally worn down the approximately 70 pound silver king and Alex put his glove on, grabbed the leader, and prepared to get it picture ready. However, apparently the fight was witnessed by more than just the other boats in the area, as a roughly seven-foot bull shark came out of nowhere right next to the boat! There was a huge commotion, complete with a sinister shark fin surfacing within arms reach of me, but the tarpon seemingly escaped, as there were no scales or blood in the water. Alex and I thanked God that neither of us had been holding that fish when the shark decided to go after it.

I hooked and fought a few more tarpon after that, but then we took the hint and started shark fishing. I don't go saltwater fishing often, but I have always enjoyed shark fishing. I targeted hammerheads for my bachelor party and I have caught trophy sharks in Maryland and South Carolina. Alex set us up on the flats, meaning I was able to fight the barracuda and nurse and lemon sharks that I caught in very shallow water, which was fantastic. The biggest shark I landed with Alex was a 5.5-foot lemon shark. This was especially memorable because it meant that lemon shark became my 100th species of sportfish caught! (47 freshwater sportfish species, 51 saltwater, and two anadromous.)

The Keys are every bit as beautiful as people say they are. Even more so, in fact. They are truly an amazing place, and with a world class fishery as a bonus. I cannot wait to go back, enjoy the tropical weather and gorgeous scenery, and of course tangle with some tarpon and sharks again with Alex.


My quest to catch a trophy fish in all 50 states

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