Snorkeling in the St. Augustine Aquarium, I was fascinated by the three stingrays that circled the 80,000-gallon tank. The rays would often stop and attach themselves to the windows where young children …
Guy Harvey Outpost Coming to Tarpon Springs
[Tarpon Springs, FL.–] A school of small tarpon rolled maddeningly on the surface of the Spring Bayou in the center of the Gulf Coast Florida town named for these irascible gamefish. Captain Craig Lahr and I cast live pinfish on Styrofoam floats toward the happily-frolicking school whenever it surfaced, but our baits were ignored. Lahr tried a few casts with a Deceiver-style fly, hoping its soft presentation might do the trick. But that didn’t work either.
Finally, we removed the floats and simply free-lined the pinfish in the direction the tarpon were moving. At first, nothing happened. But then my line started peeling furiously off the spinning reel, so I clicked the bail shut and quickly reeled up the slack and…..nothing — except for a dead, crushed pinfish still on the circle hook.
But then, that’s tarpon fishing wherever in the world you may pursue them.
Fortunately, tarpon are by no means the only fish to chase in and around the eponymous Tarpon Springs.
“Snook, redfish, sheepshead, flounder, black drum, jack crevalle, ladyfish, sea trout, bass, bream, speckled perch,” Lahr, a 20-year veteran Gulf Coast light-tackle guide, said as he ran out of fingers ticking them all off.
Lahr loves to fish the Anclote River, which flows for about 30 miles from a swamp in Pasco County west through Tarpon Springs to the Gulf of Mexico near the tiny town of Holiday. Depending on tide and rainfall, Lahr can maneuver his 21-foot bay boat some 15 miles upriver before the waters become too shallow to navigate. Kayaks and canoes can venture even further inland where the waters turn from salty to fresh. Nearby, there’s Lake Tarpon where Florida’s unofficial state-record largemouth bass weighing 19.6 pounds was caught by Riley Witt in 1961.
“When you get bad weather and it’s cold, you can come in here and it will be warmer and there will be fish in here,” Lahr said of the Anclote. “The river doesn’t get rough.”
Fishing was a tad slow the day we explored the area, owing to feeble tides and passage of a cold front. But we caught and released redfish and catfish using live shrimp and pinfish, spied a large school of snook around a marina dock that was apparently afflicted with lockjaw, and of course sparred unsuccessfully with the baby tarpon.
Besides the anticipation of fish, the Anclote presented a non-stop wildlife show– ospreys cheeping from their brushy nests in the trees; flocks of pelicans gliding overhead; a great blue heron that shadowed us for a while and then managed to steal a pinfish from the live well; a herd of manatees that joined the tarpon at the Spring Bayou.
And all that was before we headed three miles offshore to picturesque Anclote Key Preserve State Park, which harbors colonies of nesting birds, pristine beaches and a historic lighthouse.
The Anclote’s working waterfront known as the Sponge Docks flows right through the middle of Tarpon Springs. It is where commercial fishers and spongers tie up their boats; throngs of tourists browse dozens of gift and antique shops; and restaurants serve authentic Greek cuisine and fresh seafood. Plenty of gamefish lurk right under those busy docks, but enticing them to bite is another story.
In the winter of 2017, visitors and residents will have a new base camp from which to explore the region: the Guy Harvey Outpost RV Resort just north of Tarpon Springs in Pasco County. Developed in conjunction with Elite Resorts, the $15 million, 46-acre project will feature 340 brick-paved RV lots and the full slate of resort-style amenities located a stone’s throw from the Anclote River and the Gulf of Mexico.
Yet one more good excuse for me to make a return trip and try to get one over on those uncooperative tarpon.