Our computer services company was still growing and our business prospects looked good, so early in the summer of 1998, Bob Baugh and I decided to take a day off and go fish for tarpon. Over the past few years the tarpon had moved back to the beachfront in sufficient numbers that several fishing guides had started a fishery for tarpon, kingfish, jack fish and shark. To protect their newfound livelihood, they used medium to light tackle and vigorously practiced catch and release of tarpon.
We decided to get a guide and we chose Mike Williams, owner of Tarpon Express, considered to be the best saltwater guide in the Galveston area. Never having used a local guide before, we knew he’d know about catching tarpon, where they were and most important, he was on the water chasing them every.
We met him in Galveston, at the gas station, at the corner of 69th Street and Seawall Blvd., 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 artificial bait since he said the tarpon were really spread out and hadn’t been hitting artificials for the past week. That’s another reason why we hired him!
The morning was picture perfect, light southeast wind, tide rolling in bringing in the clear green Gulf water as we loaded up in the boat and motored under the San Luis Pass Bridge. Two hundred yards past the last sand bar simultaneously, Mike, Bob and I, spotted a circular slick about the size of a washtub. This usually means trout. Trout voraciously feed and while feeding, regurgitate their stomach contents and continue feeding, the slick being made by these contents floating to the surface.
Mike cut the boat back to neutral and since I was already baited up, told me, “Jon, cast right into that slick.” Casting into the slick I was rewarded by a solid strike, the fish took my bait my, but no hook up and no fish. Quickly baiting back up and casting back into the slick, this time a big fish hit my bait, 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. Having the utmost confidence in the fishing tackle, 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 a saltwater size, red reel,
The fish continued to run, then stopped, cleared the water again and just like the outdoor writers say, to create a small bit of slack in my line that acts as a cushion, I dropped my rod tip as the tarpon entered back into the water. Now, as he ran right back toward us, to keep the line tight, I reeled furiously. Another jump, another lowered rod tip, another long run, then I started to gain 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!
Since this was only catch and release, 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. We estimated 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, caught two kingfish, a five foot, black tip shark and lost several fish when they bit through the mono leaders. We did not see or connect with another tarpon. One good thing, as we were fishing, Mike cleaned the fish, so at the end of the day, we plopped them into the cooler and headed home. Another reason why we hired him!