Friday the 14th was a windy day in south Florida: the stiff breeze prevailed at 18 mph and ever so often, huffed and puffed a gust over 20. After my being kicked around by wind over open waters the last two weeks, I'd had enough. Under a full moon sky at 4 a.m., I eased into the easier backwaters of Biscayne Bay that featured the wind-shadowed shelter of canals and mangroves. My plan was to greet the dawn to the accompaniment of rolling tarpon so far inland the water was almost brackish.
The tarpon did show up as planned but as they often do, did lots of rolling but very little biting. Since I was no stranger to this behavior-particularly in this weather- I brought a 12-pound spinner that I fished with my favorite bait for this area. I simply let my offering soak on an open bail while I cast every artificial seemingly imaginable with my plug rods.
After about 30 minutes, the line suddenly flew off the reel. I quickly reeled in the plug outfit, picked up the spinner, closed the bail and struck. My hookset was solid and the rod bent deeply as the fish roared line off my reel. The speed of the run was disturbingly fast against my tight drag.
I'd thought my fish was simply a non-jumping tarpon at first, but when the fish beelined towards a nearby dock, I was less sure. With lots of fast-stroke pumping and spool-fingering, I was able to turn the fish back into open water. During the 5 minute fight that ensued, I still went back to the assumption my fish was a silver king.
As my last few pumps brought the double line into my rod tip, I glanced into the water to find the surfacing fish. Moments later, my last two pumps brought up a huge snook. Though I was alone and without a camera, some quick measuring would augment my memory and later computations would put the snook at over 30 pounds. I knew this felt correct as this fish was considerably larger in girth and length than the 24-pound monster I caught in Jupiter Inlet. I relished the release of this line-sided mama that would hopefully make many more snooklets.
An hour later, I decided to leave the area. Having just caught the largest snook in my angling career, I felt drunk on a kind of gloating bravado. I looked at the tarpon that were still rolling. Before my trophy, these fish held me captive...but now, who cared? My predictably quirky free associations took me right to Huston's "Treasure of the Sierra Madres" where the bandito said, "badges?...we don't need no stinking badges!"
As I turned the ignition key and my Yamaha quickly fired up, I thought to myself it felt good to feel a little crazy. After all on this heady morning, I'd seen "silver go to lining."