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Fishing Lines: California Dreamin' of Cedar Key tarpon

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By Capt. Dennis Voyles

Last week I had a simple request. Three guys from California want to come to Cedar Key to catch a tarpon. They had plenty of experience with blue water fish and had already caught sailfish, marlin, tuna and swordfish, but tarpon was still on their "to do" list. The timing was perfect as the full moon was on its way and the tides were stronger than normal.

Day one I was able to fill two of the three requests. We jumped a total of six tarpon that day and landed two, which is about par for tarpon fishing. Both fish that we landed were over the century mark (100 lbs), beautiful specimens of our Cedar Key tarpon fishery. The first fish of the day(we didn't land this one) was probably over 150 pounds but decided to end the battle after five impressive jumps within a dozen yards of the boat. That fish without a doubt is forever burned into the memories of these three guys. Five leaps, all five the entire fish cleared the water. I don't remember which jump it was but this huge fish cleared the water at least 10 feet in the air, a very impressive leap. Even my jaw dropped on that jump and I have seen hundreds.The fifth jump it landed on the fishing line and tore the hook loose, then slowly swam along the surface as if to say "boo yah" to us. The other fish put on some impressive shows but that one took the "impressive leaps" category.

Day two started off with a hookup in the first 10 minutes and we got just one jump out of him and game over. I thought to myself, "self, this is going to be a piece of cake." And as always when I think that it backfires. We didn't have another strike for the rest of the morning; didn't even see one roll. (Let me explain "roll". Tarpon have a pharyngeal lung which allows them to gulp atmospheric oxygen...they don't have to use it...but they do just to make your heart rate triple.) Anyway, the action is so slow we decide to get some trout for lunch and try again for tarpon in the afternoon.

The trout bite was good and once they had enough for supper we iced them and went back to the tarpon spot. At 4 p.m. we were just about to hang it up for the day when we finally boated the third guy's tarpon, a nice 80-pounder so silver it would make a jeweler jealous.

It was two great trips, the fish of a lifetime times three. And by the way, I did ask them how our fish compared to marlin, and they said that our tarpon are by far the better battle. Wow.

Just a note to anglers...the FWC prefer that tarpon not be taken into the vessel unless the fish will be tagged and kept. The new ruling is that if you bring a tarpon into your vessel, that is considered a kill and you will need a $50 tarpon tag on you. All fish released should be released while still in the water using a blunt dehooking device like the ARC dehooker. I have one and it is worth its weight in gold. The water temp is now 84 and a short battle and quick picture and release will help ensure our trophy fish survive for the future. Thanks for being considerate.

Capt. Dennis Voyles is a fishing guide working out of Cedar Key.