In the last chapter of my latest book, MY LIFE in FISHING; Favorite Long Stories Told Short; I started off by saying...I’ve enjoyed my “good old days” down to the last turn of my reel handle. Don’t let yours get away! One advantage to being an old dude, (I’m 84 as I write this blog) I can reflect on “the good old days.”
Some years ago while doing one of my many seminars; I was talking about some of those good old days. During the Q&A session, one of the young anglers spoke up and said that he didn’t know how the fishing was back in the 1950s or 60s but as far as he was concerned, the fishing was great right then.
I really like the direction of his thinking, and it only took me a nano- second to answer him with, “you’re right! These are the good old days of tomorrow!”
Because I have been fishing in South Florida waters more than 65 years, I am often asked, “What major changes have I seen in the fishery?” Generally I replied by saying, back in the mid-1950s through 1964, when I was a laid-off Pan Am Pilot, making my living as a backcountry fishing guide in the Lower Florida Keys, I began keeping a daily fishing log. It covered where I found the tarpon, permit and bonefish, what the air and water temperatures were, the wind direction and velocity and the tides, in each of the areas that I fished. Today I can check those logs, match the conditions to the present time, and head out to the flats with high expectations for success.
Will the fishing be like those “good old days”? No, it will not! The tarpon fishing is not the same as it was 40 years ago. It is still damn good though, and I go after them every chance I get. Yes, the tarpon fishing has changed since I first started fishing the Florida Keys. I remember seeing many schools of tarpon with 80 to 150 fish in a school swimming down various shallow banks near the deep channels. They showed up like clockwork at the predicted time of the best tides. Now you might see schools of 8 to 15 tarpon coming down the same banks, during the same tides.
Today, I don’t believe our tarpon population has decreased that much. But the fishing has changed, because 40 years or so ago, these big schools would come into the shallow water each year to get into the areas that had lots of food and solitude. With the coming of the fast, far-ranging skiffs, having large outboard motors, these areas have become rare for the tarpon.
I believe they spend more time in the deeper offshore waters. I also believe that many of these larger schools of tarpon that venture inshore are run over many times by boats with large engines, breaking them up into smaller, more-aware schools. I really don’t believe tarpon need to come into the shallow water to survive but historically they did this for the easy living that it provided.
My “good old days” of tarpon fishing have come and gone, long ago. You might not realize it, but yours are here right now. Yes it’s different. But they are all yours, and I hope you don’t waste them with negative thinking. It is important that you believe this is a good reason to join Bonefish Tarpon Trust (BTT) and help save our fishery.