BY CHERYL HOPKINS - It was a beautiful Sunday evening. We met Capt. Shane and Mike Sovan, climbed aboard the Haywire, and set off for what would be a most fabulous time. It proved to be exactly what we had bargained for … and more! I am ready to go back.
I must admit that I was a good bit nervous because all of my friends aboard the boat with me had all caught their “first” tarpon. I had watched a few children work their magic as an observer during the recent kids tournament, but that was my entire history with the famous silver king.
I felt so comfortable on Shane’s boat. I just knew that this was it. This was my big day! The cloud formation revealed a beautiful sunset. There we were, we were equipped with food and drink for an outstanding evening in paradise.
It was probably my third or fourth drift of the evening. We had been taking turns, cheering each other on, doing the chicken (or tarpon) dance, and having a fabulously fun time in the Pass.
As I sat in the chair holding my rod, just as I had been instructed, and having a delightful conversation, I might add, it hit.
“Oh, my gosh!” I screamed. That would only be the first of who knows how many times I would scream over the next few minutes.
“Fish on!” yelled someone. I don’t even remember because I was in the fight of my life. I struggled to hold on and stay in my chair. You see, I weigh a little less than 100 pounds, and this mighty silver king I was fighting felt way bigger than me!
The first few minutes, I was just trying to hold on to my rod and remember everything I had been told by our wonderful captain and his mate. I never have really enjoyed fishing all that much, but I must say that I definitely have the fever now.
It felt as if I had a fighting freight train on the end of my rod. I was trying to remember not to jerk high in to the air so as not to lose this fish. I was worried that this fish on the other end of my rod was going to pull me into the water. Could I hold onto the rod? My hands were awfully sweaty! I am strong, but can I do it? I was holding onto the side of the boat so as not to go flying into the air, and I screamed.Soon, though, I had changed chairs, gotten my rod in its holder, and was ready for battle. I propped both legs on the back of the boat, wiped the sweat off my hands, and learned how to pull up on my rod (all the way to my chest) and reel as fast as I could on the way down. I got better at this as the seconds ticked by.
So there I was, my friends all yelling their encouraging words, me continually screaming and wondering just what that fish on the end of my line looked like.
Then, he gave me the most beautiful jump high over the water, and was sparkling as he twisted in the air. Wow! He was so beautiful, and so very strong. I screamed again!
“We’ve got a swivel,” I heard Mike say.
Whew! I remembered from observing at the kids tournament that meant he was almost in.
Well, he took off again. As I sat with both feet still propped on the back of the boat, pulled up all the way to the chest and reeled ever so fast on the way down. Our battle was not over. And I really am so glad!My left arm was getting weak, but I was having so much fun. We fought against each other for a few more minutes. Then, there he was at the back of the boat.
My oh my! I have never seen a more beautiful fish. He floated so gently just under the water. Then we got a DNA sample so that we can contribute to further research on these wonderful creatures and their lives.
Finally, at long last, this battle was over. My arms were weak and my throat sore from all the screaming. My girlfriends and I were giddy after I was done. So much screaming, so many cheers of congratulations. All this as our evening was the utmost success! There is no doubt in my mind why these creatures are called silver kings.
I was so enamored by this entire experience. From waiting with much anticipation, to that “Fish on!” command, to the struggle and labor of bringing him in, to watching with amazement as he swam so gracefully away. I only wished that my beautiful daughter was there to watch her mommy fight and reel this fish in. But I promise that, while this may have been my first tarpon experience, it definitely will not be my last. I will be back, and soon!
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