May-August is the peak of the tarpon season in southwest Florida and the time of year you start seeing pods of tarpon rolling. These gorgeous, large, silver fish travel in groups of between 30-100 to go offshore to spawn. They’re fun to watch but even better to fish!
I used to run the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation chapter in Sarasota and held an annual Mercury Red-Bone Fishing Tournament out of Palm Island with the lovely chairwoman, Jill Beckstead. The winning angler our last year of the tournament was her former husband, Dean Beckstead owner of Useppa Island, and fishing guide, Rhett Morris of Beyond Borders Outfitters Fishing Charters out of Punta Gorda. I have always loved the sport of fishing thanks to my Dad but after this tournament and learning all about the tarpon and the season, I was hooked to say the least.
Captain Rhett Morris offered to take me out for a chance to experience this special time of year for myself right after our Red-Bone tournament ended. It was a Wednesday evening and we went out to the Boca Grande Pass. At first, there were a bunch of boats out there. Once we settled in and landed our first catch which took approximately an hour to get to the boat, we ended up being one of only three boats remaining. Rhett asked if I was ready to catch more and I had to decline even though there were more tarpon pods than one could shake a stick at, I was exhausted and just didn’t have it in me. They say it generally takes approximately 30 minutes to bring a tarpon in after it jumps, fights, challenges and exhausts itself. For me it was an hour and I was the one who got exhausted. It was such a thrill. I try to get out there annually to catch more. My Dad also can’t stand that his daughter has one under her belt and he doesn’t so really my quest is for him to catch one.
This year I went to Facebook and socially asked for recommendations on guides in Cortez. A friend of mine whom fishes often suggested Jason Stock of JM Snooky Charters. He was serious about his fishing, extremely experienced and good with people. And yes, we had two tarpon interactions. One got to the boat while the other got away! Jason did say for the one I lost that it was a 150 pounder as it took my bait, jumped out of the water, flew across the sky and said see ya later as he spit my hook out! I was so thankful I had witnesses to see for themselves the giant beauty flying through the air before it disappeared back into the Gulf waters. What a blast. Tarpon season is one special time and provides memories for a lifetime. We’re already discussing plans for next year!
I sent Jason my photograph and he had some fun with it: Check it out here. https://www.instagram.com/p/BUAaLdoA07D/
Just a nice Saturday gondola ride down Phillippi Creek. That’s amore.
Hope this slows you down and you take a deep breath to enjoy such stillness.
If you enjoy the country, a slower pace and way of life, getting a little dirty and wearing a big smile on your face, you’d enjoy Clewiston.
Close to Lake Okeechobee, Clewiston is known as Florida’s “sweetest town” due to the plethora of sugarcane fields! Clewiston is a city in Hendry County, Florida with a mere population of approximately 7,175 give or take a few.
If you do visit, you truly go back in time especially when you stay at the historic Clewiston Inn. It was built in 1938 by the United States Sugar Company to host company executives and visiting dignitaries. Pretty cool eh? The inn is registered as a National Historic Site which I didn’t realize when I stayed there for one quick evening. Sweet Clewiston takes me so far back to my childhood days spent with my grandparents on their 88 acres of land in Filmore, NY. The sights, the sounds, the smells. Absolutely everything, including the music playing on the radio with the windows down as you cruise through the country roads without a care in the world and the wind in your hair. Even when I’m just passing through, I get sucked in and stop along the country ways to photograph God’s great Earth and fondly think of my grandparents. I thank you Mr. Clewiston.
Special moments when you feel quite small in this expansive world of ours. I used to work at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens and a long-lost friend told me to always look up! How many in the crowd didn’t bother to look up? Siege the day people!
AC/DC lead singer Brian Johnson and his wife, Brenda, donated an undisclosed amount of money to create the “Brian Johnson Music Therapy Center” at Sarasota Memorial in the Pediatrics unit. Sounds like incredible music to our ears.