It's no secret that fishing tournaments can become quite costly. Everything from entry fees, additional fees for the Calcutta, fuel for travel, fuel for multiple scouting trips for the boat, tackle, water, ice, Gatorade and snacks for the boat and then anything that breaks along the way. You can imagine how thankful we were to receive a phone call from the Tournament Director of the 7th Annual John A. Peters Jr. Tarpon Tournament, saying that our entry into the tournament was covered by an anonymous donor.
A major part of the service we provide is using the competitive nature of our veterans to take their thoughts off of any disabilities they may have or emotions they may be dealing with. We give our best effort to get them on the podium, although I must admit in this case, having never fished for Tarpon, I was out of my element. Nonetheless, we had a great day on calm seas.
This weekend, I had Jason and Ernie on board. Both are veterans that have served in Iraq. Both were excited just to be on board as we started our day quite early. It was my first time meeting Ernie as we met at the ramp. His day started with ripping his pants just as he was getting ready to meet with us. Not to be discouraged, he took his mind off of the 8 inch rip and went about helping prepare to launch the boat. Later in the morning I watched as he took a length of braid that Jason offered from his fishing line, and straightened a light hook to form a needle. Within 15 minutes, his pants were stitched and he was ready to try and catch some tarpon. With a grin on his face he said, "See what the Army teaches you!"
Jason put us in awe of his skills with a cast net. My skills in that department are not what they need to be for someone pursuing a Captain's License. I discovered part of this may be due to the type of net I am using, but for the most part, it's a lack of experience on my part. Jason brought along his custom made Tim Wade Cast Net purchased from Black Dog Bait and Tackle out of Melbourne Beach, Florida. This was a fast sinking net that did not disappoint as he hauled in enough Menhaden to fill the bait well in one cast.
We made the trip out of Skidaway and headed south in search of the Silver King. Our gear was primarily Penn Reels spooled with 50 pound braid and varying leaders that were rigged with either a float, free swimming or for the bottom. This is the longest run that I have made in the boat as we went to the south end of Sapelo Island. Although the Tarpon were nowhere to be found, we discovered a good quantity of hungry sharks. The first being a 5 foot blacktip that was working hard to show me who was in charge. A few sharks and a stingray later, we decided it was time to head up to St. Catherine's Island.
As we were pulling into our fishing area, we found 4 boats already on the scene, one of which was hooked up to a tarpon. It was my first time witnessing the aerobatics that tarpon are popular for. Casting our own lines, we found ourselves hooking more sharks as a large Atlantic Sharp Nose took the bait. Even Ernie got into the game at this point, catching a large bonnet head. While the shark were fun, they were not what we were after, so we departed the area and moved a little farther north.
After trying for tarpon and realizing our time was getting short, I decided to go into a creek to try and catch a couple of reds or trout for dinner with a couple of rods I had tucked away for this purpose. As we worked our way toward the end of the creek, we were surprised by the appearance of a Tarpon on the surface and quickly changed back to our Tarpon gear.
However, as we used the last of our bait, we knew that a Tarpon would not put us on the leaderboard on this day.
The ride back to the ramp was long and quiet except for the music coming through the radio. Each of us were showing our age a little and the event had worn us out. Next year, I hope to have a little more experience in catching Tarpon and finding the best areas to locate them so that we can be more competitive in this exciting event. Again, thanks goes out to the team that worked to pull this event together. I would also like to thank Jay Yancey for providing a few additional fishing rods that were capable of performing if we had caught Tarpon.
The next tournament on our schedule is the IFA Redfish Tournament in Beaufort, SC. I enjoy the setting of the IFA tournament as they still have a prayer and play the national anthem prior to the start of the event. While this may not mean much to many, to others of us, these things are tied to our faith in God, our devotion to our country and the dedication with which we served. If you know of a veteran that would like to participate in this tournament, please have them call me at (912) 996-3442. We are still looking for sponsors to assist with this event, so please take a moment to visit our store and view our sponsor packages. Donations of any amount may be made through our paypal account at CastingforaCause@gmail.com.
Look for the Casting for a Cause boat on the water and give us a wave! Heck, track us down and just talk to us for a minute. We would love to hear from you.