Our fishing adventure began the way most guide trips start. We met Captain Tyson Wallerstein of Clearwater Fishing Charters Adventure (www.coconutvillasfl.com/captain-tyson.php)at the Safety Harbor Marina in Mobbly Bay which is a northern bay of Old Tampa Bay and part of Tampa Bay. Before boarding the boat, we made our introductions. Little did we know that later one of us was going to catch a Carcharhinus Leucas.
All together there were four clients on board with Captain Wallerstein who was up on the tower steering us down past Clearwater towards the St. Pete area of old Tampa Bay. His 22’ Pathfinder bay boat had plenty of room for all of us and was powered by a 200 hp Yamaha outboard. It was the perfect guide boat for chasing after snook, redfish and tarpon in Tampa Bay.
Our goal for the day out fishing with Captain Wallerstein was to hook, land and photo a tarpon. Captain Wallerstein specializes in catching snook, redfish and the silver king-tarpon. It was going to be a great photo opportunity since tarpon grow to enormous sizes and make numerous magnificent leaps when being reeled in.
After taking a short boat ride, Captain Wallerstein turned off his outboard and jumped down from the tower onto the bow of the boat. Quietly he dropped the trolling motor into the water. Standing on the bow, he scanned the area for rising tarpon. His posture reminded me of a blue heron searching for bait fish. “I almost always hear them coming up to the surface before I see them,” explained Captain Wallerstein on what he was looking for standing on the bow. “I know that there is a number of tarpon in the area. Look there’s one, there’s one over there, there’s three of them in a group. We’ll put the anchor down here and cast out some baits to catch them,” said Captain Wallerstein.
Our bait for the day was cut frozen mullet. To prepare them, Captain Wallerstein would cut the 20-inch or so mullet in half. He would then discard the tail section and put the size 9/0 circle hook through the lips. It was truly generous, appealing bait fit for a king-the silver king.
Captain Wallerstein proceeded to cast out four rods of cut bait towards where the tarpon were surfacing and placing them in rod holders. The waiting game was on. It didn’t take long. One of the lines on our rods on the stern became taut then line began stripping off the reel.
Jumping on point, Captain Wallerstein grabbed the rod as the line was stripping off and began reeling. Earlier, Captain Wallerstein had explained that with circle hooks all an angler has to do to set the hook is reel in the line, the tension of reeling sets the hook.
Within seconds of the hook being set, we saw the silver king make its first powerful jump.”Fish on!” yelled Captain Wallerstein. It was around 5 foot long about 60 pounds. In middle air, I caught a momentary glance of the powerful fish. Its body was built for speed yet had a tail that could produce enough thrust to project itself upwards or forwards fast.
A second jump quickly followed. Everyone was on the move by then getting in position to transfer the rod to my wife who was going to battle it in, but as sudden as the line had gone taut, the tarpon had come unhooked.
No one was overly disappointed over the tarpon coming unhooked; in fact, we all took that as a positive sign of more bites to come. Tarpon getting off the hook or jumping and throwing the hook is not uncommon. Often novice anglers battling with their first tarpon forget to bow to the king.
Captain Wallerstein quickly baited up another rod and casted it out with a mullet head. It wasn’t long before the catfish began to bite. We caught them on the cut mullet and also casting a soft swimbait at surfacing tarpon.
The next bite was just like the first bite when the tarpon hit. Captain Wallerstein again set the hook, but this time the fish stayed deep. Captain Wallerstein quickly handed the bent rod to my wife. The powerful fish was taking drag and bending the rod tip. This fish was hooked up. To help get some leverage on the fish, Captain Wallerstein put a fighting belt around my wife’s waist.
This was a big fish. My wife would pull one way and the fish the other. Everyone was waiting for it to jump like the last tarpon. Captain Wallerstein saw it first. “It’s a bull shark!” he yelled. “Oh my gosh; that is just so cool!” my wife said. “A man eater,” Captain Wallerstein replied.
After a back and forth battle, the bull shark appeared to give up coming alongside the boat. Now what I thought? Is Captain Wallerstein going to invite the bull shark in the boat? The bull shark was within inches of coming in the boat then without warning the powerful shark thrust its tail splashing water on my wife and Captain Wallerstein. Both of them laugh. “I don’t think he likes me,” said Captain Wallerstein. Again, the bull shark was reeled up close to the boat. Putting on his gloves, Captain Wallerstein pulled it arms length away then cut the leader freeing the bull shark.
“That was awesome,” my wife shouts. It was definitely exciting. Best of all I had photos of the bull shark up close and one of the clients on the boat had videotaped it. Now it wasn’t a big tarpon, but it sure was exciting.
Unfortunately, we spent the rest of the morning watching tarpon surface around us refusing to take a bait; however it really didn’t matter. We had caught a shark; in addition to having a videotape of my wife fighting it along with Captain Wallerstein letting it go.
It seemed like our morning went way to fast, but it was time to put up. We reeled up the rods and Captain Wallerstein jumped back up on the tower to drive us back to the ramp. As the boat cut through the waves my mind wandered back to the tarpon that jumped and got off. What a beautiful creature, but powerful at the same time. I vowed right there and then the next time I was in the St. Pete Clearwater area to hook backup with Captain Wallerstein and try to catch a tarpon.
Bull sharks are commonly found in warm, shallow waters next to the shorelines and rivers. It’s one of the more aggressive sharks. A bull shark can live in both freshwater and saltwater. Some have even been known to swim up freshwater rivers. The majority of most near shoreline attacks are by bull sharks. Bull sharks, however, serve a valuable purpose and are part of the ecological chain to balance Mother Nature.
The St. Petersburg Clearwater (www.visitstpeteclearwater.com) area not only has some of the best fishing in Florida, but offers a wide array of other opportunities to explore. Accommodations are plentiful including hotels, condos, motel, bed & breakfast all within easy driving distance of great dining. There are also a number of beaches in the St. Petersburg Clearwater area where an angler can wet a line.
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