(ARA) – “No one can resist the adrenaline rush when you’ve hooked a 150-pound tarpon and it jumps 6 feet in the air,” says Steve Bowler of Fish Tales Guide Service in Pasco County, Fla. “It’s almost as if they hook you.” Some anglers describe the feeling as “tarpon fever,” but whatever it’s called, from April to September, tarpon lure many an angler with a feverish determination to catch one.
In Pasco County on Florida’s Gulf coast, anglers count on hooking tarpon ranging from 30 to 200 pounds. With a few tips and a seasoned pro at your side, you’re bound to get hooked. Many winners return year after year to the fight with this classic game fish, which is also known as the “Silver King.” Pasco County is a well-kept secret for travelers seeking adventure, nature and an affordable Florida vacation. It features historic attractions, unusual festivals, pristine nature and of course — fishing adventures.
“Preparing to go tarpon fishing is like going to battle,” Bowler said. “You know there’s going to be a struggle and someone or something has got to lose. The question is whether you’re prepared to take a whuppin’ from a fish.”
Bowler knows that there are times when you just don’ t have a choice. “I’ve landed some 100-pound tarpon, but I’ve also had my share of losses,” he says.
As a teenager, Bowler hooked a 150-pound tarpon on light-tackle while competing in a tarpon tournament that began in the Anclote River. Within the first two hours of the fight, his boat ran out of gas. “That fish dragged me all the way from Pasco into the next county,” Bowler smiled, remembering the encounter. After twisting, twirling and jumping for another hour, the fish finally got away.
Of course you might say this is just another fish tale, but stories like this one are commonplace in Pasco County. The coastal water and climate are just right to draw the schools of tarpon that make Florida one of the sweetest fishing spots in the world. Port Richey, Hudson and New Port Richey coastal waters boast some of the best places to hook your own Silver King.
But before the battle, there’s the hunt. Anyone who’s been to Pasco can direct you to well known local fishing spots, but only seasoned captains know where to find those schools of trophy tarpon. There’s an angler’s paradise 10 miles northwest of Anclote Park. The water is home to prize-winning tarpon, along with cobia, trout, Spanish mackerel and snook. As a testament to the great fishing, Aripeka, a historic fishing village, is nearby. It’s a great place to visit, as well as a great place to fish.
While you can strike out on your own, your chances of glory are better with one of the great local fishing guides or charters.
Pasco County’s captains can take you on the sporting adventure of your life. They know when and where the tarpon are biting. Fish tours and charters can range in price from $40 to $400 depending on the length of the trip and the amenities offered. Most charter services include bait, tackle and licensing. Some charters offer a galley lunch while others will let you eat what you catch.
You’ll still need some help from the captain after you’ve found your treasure. The guides can tell you exactly how to cast and bait with plenty of advice and coaching. The key to hooking tarpon is not to cast directly at rolling fish. These fish usually don’t bite. However, the fish below will. Casting on top of them will spook the fish and the rest of the school. Try to cast in front of the school and allow the bait to float until it reaches them. Then just wait. It takes extreme patience to hook a tarpon, but the benefits usually outweigh the labor.
Tarpon is king of the water in Pasco, but there are several other types of fish to be caught including redfish trout, grouper and kingfish. Pristine coastal waters with protected mangroves ensure that populations are healthy and hearty. “The coast is not as crowded in Pasco and the water is clearer, which attracts more fish,” says Captain Greg DeVault of Angling Adventures.
But Pasco County also boasts great freshwater fishing. Crews Lake is the largest natural body of water in Pasco and home to largemouth bass, bream, gar, pickerel and catfish. Devil’s Rock Yard, is also a favorite fishing spot with its rocky minefield guarding the approach to Fillman Bayou.
Visit Pasco County and wrestle with a few of our fish. Your prize-winning tarpon is waiting in warm Gulf water. See a complete list of area guides and charter services on www.visitpasco.net. If you’re planning to take a fishing trip in the near future, or even if you’re not, visit the Web site for a chance to enter the Get Hooked on Pasco Sweepstakes. The grand-prize winner will receive a two-day vacation for four to Port Richey, Fla., where they’ll enjoy a full weekend of fishing with Fish Tales Guide Service and hotel accommodations from the Comfort Inn Port Richey.
Courtesy of ARA Content