I headed out to the Merry Pier in Pass-A-Grill before the crack of dawn on Sunday, still determined to find a 22″+ grouper. I was joined at around 6 a.m. by my friend David, who was in from Denver. David is a very experienced fisherman, and we’ve fished together coutless times. All in all, we had a great morning at the dock.
I was fishing cut sardines on the bottom out in the rock piles, and was catching a few smallish (10-12″) snapper, when David decided to free line a big sardine. After a couple of minutes, the rod tip bounced, then drag started peeling out- slowly at first, then increasing in speed. I figured ‘big snook’, and headed for the net, but at that moment 100+ pounds of angry tarpon jumped 50 yards from the dock. I have been seeing smaller tarpon rolling over the last few weeks, but this wasn’t one of them.
It was a good hokup, and a tug-of-war ensued, with the big fish screaming off 30 or 40 yards of PowerPro, and David slowing gaining it back. But, as the minutes passed and the big fish got closer to the dock, the fight took an unexpected turn. The tarpon headed for the Miss Pass-A-Grille, the big party boat anchored in a slip. No amount of pressure could stop the ensuing cutoff, and the fight ended abruptly. Fun stuff, though. That’s what keeps Merry Pier fishing interesting. You can use virtually the same tackle, bait and techniques, and one minute you’ll catch a 6 oz pinfish- then a 100′ tarpon on the next cast. Never a dull moment.
Anyway, the bite continued fairly steady the rest of the morning- no really big fish, but lots of medium snapper and grouper. The macks were working the bait schools off the dock, and I managed to nail a small one between getting cut off by the sharp teeth of these predators.