Gradie’s GREAT Day – Gradie Beaulieu

Around 10 yesterday morning Russ and I called the marina to schedule a boat and found ourselves on the water around 1230. Early afternoon provided little in the way of excitement, although we did bait up nicely with 2-3 dozen threadfin Herring who were swimming the green mile in the bait well. We trolled the local river hoping to hook up something, but the sun was hot and high, so after about three hours of doing nothing we made a move to the mouth and set up four herring and balloon rods.

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Baitfish were moving through and we could see the bigger ones right behind them chasing them around. About 15 minutes after we had the bait in the water, my balloon, which was 10 feet off the port stern, was crushed! I started to get a bit freaked out when I noticed the balloon still attached to the line and close to being hauled in through my top eye. The inevitable happened and my line jammed at the top. Holy $&%t! I knew it! Here it comes, I going to be broken off by a dadgum balloon, under the boat it went, around the motor, back out and under the boat. Finally after missing a few heart beats, Russ managed to get a solid hold on the first Snook I have ever caught and the largest one that I have ever personally seen. With high fives flying on our boat, the boat next to us got in on the action acting as our personal cheering section “thanks guys, once in a while everyone needs a cheering section.” It was awesome to catch such a huge fish like that and I will remember it forever, but the afternoon was not over, nor was the truly amazing stuff that will affect my fishing addiction down here for a long time.

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Just after we landed the Snook, we realized that all of the remaining baits were dead and what we had out were the last of the good ones. Russ has two spinning reels; the first is the Penn 9500ss paired with an 8 ft, heavy action Ugly Stick and the other one is the Penn Sargus 6000 with a Penn Slammer 20-30 class rod. He had the Sargus out about 30 yards when it went from quiet, peaceful, poetry reading-like calm to a hectic rod-folding screaming run. He grabbed the rod, put on some pressure and just yards beyond where his balloon was sitting jumped the largest Tarpon ever. This is a big statement, but being the Tarpon catcher that I am with just over zero landed (that’s 1 for those that are processing it) I am comfortable stating the previous. The Tarpon was in our estimation at least 6 to 7 feet long. All my amazing Tarpon catching skills aside, it was no doubt pushing 200 pounds and every bit as tall as or taller than me. This thing had us awe struck and screaming like kids. A quick jump here a thrash there and two more massive completely air born leaps and the monster Tarpon parted the 80 lbs fluorocarbon leader an inch below the top knot with out missing a stride (any help here would be great if anyone would know why a knot would break there).

With the only remaining live baits already being out on balloons, I reeled one of the rods in and pitched it on the other side of the boat, down wind. As long as it took me to look over at Russ and look back at the balloon, three huge Tarpon were rolling over my bait fighting for it. Poor Herring never had a chance. My reel is not a 9500ss or a Sargus 600, but what it is, is a field tested, fish catching and completely outclassed Penn 5500 with about 250 yards of 40 braid on it. The balloon instantly disappeared and I knew I had a problem. Fighting a 20-pound snook is one thing, but a 100+ pound tarpon anchored in 10 feet of water is another.

A Tarpon Gradie landed in the past. The ones they saw on this day were MUCH larger

A Tarpon Gradie landed in the past. The ones they saw on this day were MUCH larger

Granted, given a perfect scenario this Tarpon and, I am sure, even larger could be landed on my reel, I mean after all people do it with fly rods all the time, so I am sure that a 5500 under good circumstances could do it. However, as many of my fishing tales down here in good old GTMO go, this was not what you’d call “good circumstances”. The Tarpon, although not as big as Russ’, was still at least 100 pounds and 5 to 6 feet long. When it came out of the water it was within 2 ft of the boat off the port transom, it snagged one of the rods that had a Sabiki rig attached, jumped completely over the two other lines sitting in the transom rod holders and tangled everything up in one swift leap. Craziness people, craziness found it’s way on to our boat yesterday and putting it into words is tough to do, but stay with me.

We tried to figure out what we were going to do, but honestly it didn’t really matter, because by the time Russ got the rod cleared from the mess, I had maybe 60 yards of line left, then 50 then 40… you get the picture. Being anchored number one, with no hopes of clearing the lines number two and getting underway in time number three, I applied a bit of pressure and the Tarpon unceremoniously straightened both my J hook and the stinger treble. I clearly went to a gunfight with a short stick.

Yesterday afternoon was the best that I have seen down here. We have, in the past, caught more for grill and bigger on the scale (350 pound 10 foot Hammerhead), but the action yesterday was constant, unbelievably awesome and definitely the best yet. I hope that this weekend will be just as good. Until then, I have to make some leaders, change some plans, and, of course, tell this story over and over again… Tight lines.

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