A Trophy

By 1997 the Tarpon had returned to the Galveston/Bolivar/Freeport beachfronts in sufficient numbers to convince a number of bay fishing guides to concentrate on them and start a fishery consisting of Tarpon, Jackfish, Kingfish and Black Tip Sharks. The guides used light to medium tackle and, to protect their livelihood, vigorously practiced catch and release of the Tarpon.

Bob Baugh and I decided to take a day off and go fish with Mike Williams, owner of Tarpon Express, and considered to be the best saltwater/Tarpon guide in the Galveston area. We hadn’t used a local guide before but figured he’d know about catching the Tarpon, where they were, and most important, he was on the water every day
We met him in Galveston, at the Exon Station, at the corner of 69th
Street and Seawall Blvd., and followed him down the sixteen miles of
beachfront to San Luis Pass and launched his twenty-three footer,
powered by a two hundred horse outboard. He had already picked up a
supply of frozen cigar minnows, that we would be using for bait. He had
made the decision for us not to use artificials since he said the
Tarpon were really spread out and hadn’t been hitting artificials for
the past week. That’s why we hired him!

The morning was picture
perfect, light southeast wind, tide rolling in bringing in the clear
green Gulf water, reminding me of another picture perfect morning, not
two miles from here, where, over forty years ago, a shark ate my

We loaded up in the boat and motored under the San
Luis Pass Bridge and two hundred yards past the last sand bar Mike, Bob
and I all spotted a circular slick about the size of a number 5
washtub. This usually meant Trout. Trout will voraciously feed and
while feeding, regurgitate their stomach contents and continue feeding.
The slick is made by these contents floating to the surface.

cut the boat back to neutral and since I was already baited up, told
me, “Jon, cast right into that slick.” I did and was rewarded by a
solid strike, taking my bait, but no fish. I quickly baited up and cast
back into the slick and this time a big fish hit my bait and headed
east down the beachfront, pausing only to clear the water and expose
its silver/green sides a big Tarpon!

Wow, my first real
opportunity to land a big, Tarpon. I had the utmost confidence in the
fishing tackle I was using, a seven foot, medium action, fiberglass rod
Bob had made for me several years before, with an eighty pound,
monofilament leader and twenty pound line wrapped onto an Ambassadeur
7000 reel,

The fish continued to run, then stopped and cleared
the water again, and just like the outdoor writers say, to create a
small bit of slack in my line, I dropped my rod tip, as a “cushion” as
the Tarpon entered the water. Now, while I reeled furiously to keep the
line tight, he ran right back toward us. Another jump, another lowered
rod tip, another long run, then I started gaining line as it wallowed
on the surface, then Mike put a hand gaff right in the point of the
Tarpon’s lower jaw, and I had my trophy.

This was strictly catch
and release fishing, so we measured the Tarpon as best we could, Bob
took pictures of the fish in the water (he can’t find the picture now)
and we released it to fight another day. Our estimate was that it was
sixty inches long and weighed eighty pounds! I took the measurements to
a taxidermist and had a shoulder mount made up of the fish coming out
of the water. The mount was displayed in my office for many years and
now, Bob has it.

We continued fishing that day and caught
several Kingfish and one five foot, Black Tip Shark and lost several
Kings and Sharks when they bit through the mono leaders. We did not see
or connect with another Tarpon.

good thing was that Mike cleaned the Kings as we were fishing, so at
the end of the day, we plopped them into the cooler and headed home. It
figures that the only picture of the day’s catch was this small King.

was my second experience using a fishing guide, the first being on the
Suwannee River, and both times, I really got my moneys worth!