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P ass crabs' swim to the surface lighting of a full moon in April and begin drifting and mating with an outgoing tide. On some nights there are not many. On others, there are hundreds of thousands of them. By what is probably no coincidence the crab loving Tarpon arrive en-mass in April and begin what is believed to be their mating rituals in the sixty-foot deep Boca Grande Pass.

It's a quiet moonlit night. Your engine is turned off and you and your fishing buddy are drifting peacefully atop an outgoing tide. The noise of nearby boats and fisherman begins to fade as you drift peacefully away. You've been fishing hard all day and you just don't feel like starting the boat up and heading to the front of the pass for another drift through. You've got a live crab about six feet from a 4-ounce sinker dangling about thirty feet beneath the boat in the darkness. Together, slowly and quietly you, your friends and your three crabs drift out of sight and the sound of the other boats. It is dark and deafly quiet. Soon your attention is focused on your boats reflected light as you notice the occasional shrimp, crab or small fish dart in and out of the light. Before long you begin to become hypnotized as you drift along listening to the sound of the water gently lapping at your boat while you stare at the different life forms in the water.

It's been a long time since you've had a bite but you don't really care. You've decided to just enjoy the lack of activity.
 

After all, the next time you restart the boat you both know it would be time to motor home. You move the cooler so it fits under your feet and slide your tired body down the chair a little. You position the rod between your crossed your legs with the reel underneath in case you get surprised. Now that you're comfortable you just lay there looking up at the bright stars and the full moon.


(Bill Allen with 175lb Tarpon based on weight/girth measurements)


The problems of work and life disappear completely. Soon the conversation drifts to the inevitable realty that the three of you floating on a boat beneath the stars are no more significant than three grains of sand are to a beach. You talk about where it all comes from and how small we really are. Do you believe in God comes up and fifteen minutes are devoted to philosophy and the whys and why nots. Far in the distance of the direction you are drifting you begin to hear the very faint sound of a bell buoy bonging as it is being rocked gently by the breeze and the current. It's design is to make boaters aware of where the channel is when there is too much fog to see the lighted buoys. It has an eerie but fitting sound as it 'bongs' its occasional and erratic rhythm in the blackness of the night.

As you listen more closely you begin to hear occasional odd sounds all around your boat. Soon you identify them as Tarpon slurping down drifting crabs. You've drifted upon a school of Tarpon feeding on crabs at the surface.


(Spawning 'Pass Crabs' drifting by the boat)

The idle conversation with your friends immediately stops and both of your attention is riveted to slurping sounds in the darkness. Quickly, the two of you reel up your baits, remove the sinkers and attach a bobber about six feet from your crabs. You then cast your line into the darkness. (It's amazing where the energy comes from all of a sudden). Within moments and with zero notice a freight train crashes into your crab and spools off a hundred feet of line to the sound of whining drag before you can even react to it.

 

With heavy 50lb test line and a broom stick pole you pull back to set the hook and the battle begins. You hear a huge splash as the Tarpon jumps to throw the hook but you see nothing. You can see the direction of line going out into the darkness but the sound of the splash was forty-five degrees away from the direction of the line. The Tarpon is moving so quickly that the line doesn't cut through the dense water quite as quickly as the Tarpon does.

After about a half-hour of back and forth and an occasional jump your tired foe is within sight of the boat light. You see it's huge silver side and just as you do it drives to the depths and spools off again. Although the average is five hookups to every one fish, this one is eventually successful and the huge fish is eventually brought back to the boat.

One of your friend's reaches over and gaffs the fish in the lower jaw as you both pull it out of the water and on top of your lap. The fish is so big that half of it is still over the side of the boat. Your other friend takes the picture as you stare down at the fish in amazement. A length and girth measurement is quickly taken and the fish is then immediately slid back into the water where it is held at boat side for more than ten minutes at which time it became strong enough to swim away.

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