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John's Journal... Entry 108, Day 1


EDITOR'S NOTE: Very little has been written about the tarpon along Georgia's Pirate Coast where the legendary Blackbeard once pillaged for wealth and treasure, and pirates once ruled with tyranny and fear. But this undiscovered-tarpon hotspot is without question one of the best places to catch the most tarpon in the shortest time. In a day-and-a-half of fishing, we had eight chances to catch tarpon, and we brought four fish to the leader and one fish along the side of the boat. This week, we'll look at the secrets to catching tarpon along the Pirate Coast and talk to Greg Hildreth of Brunswick, Georgia, the King of Tarpon on the Pirate Coast. He'll tell us where to find tarpon and how to catch them.

Question: What is the best memory you have of catching tarpon?
Answer: Four years ago, I took a half-day tarpon-fishing trip with a father and his 11-year-old daughter, 10-year-old son and 9-year-old son. The little girl said to me, "I've caught a 40-pound king mackerel, and now I want to catch a tarpon. I know we're going to catch one today." I told her we would give it our best shot, but I couldn't promise success.

We caught live pogies at daylight and then headed out to St. Andrews Sound to fish. As I started to put the anchor in the water, I saw two tarpon roll near the boat. I generally put out four rods when I'm tarpon fishing, and when I finally positioned the last rod, we got our first hit on a bottom bait. As the 50-pound-plus tarpon skyrocketed wildly and set the hook, I handed the rod to the little girl. She had all the tarpon fun she could handle. We pulled the fish to the boat, photographed her with the fish and then released the tarpon back into the water.

As soon as we released the fish, I put all my rods back out again. Almost instantly another tarpon hit. The fish stayed hooked up, and the 10-year-old boy boated his first tarpon. The next time I put the lines out, the 9-year old got his tarpon. Then bad luck struck. We jumped five or six more tarpon but they didn't stay hooked. However, 30 minutes before the trip was to be over, another tarpon took the bait. After putting up a valiant fight, the father boated a 150-pound-plus tarpon. Without question, that was one of the most memorable tarpon trips I've ever had.

Question: When did that trip take place?
Answer: That trip was in August. The best time of the year to catch tarpon off the Georgia Coast is during July and August. I believe that the tarpon gang-up on the full moon to come in and spawn during these summer months.

Question: Is there much competition for Georgia's tarpon?
Answer: No, you won't see the large number of boats and fisherman around Brunswick, Georgia, like you'll find at Bocca Grand, Florida, and other tarpon hotspots in the Keys and along the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico. Although you'll find tarpon all up and down the Georgia Coast, my favorite place to fish is St. Andrews Sound between Cumberland Island and Jekyll Island. The largest number of boats I've ever seen fishing this area is 15, and on that day those 15 boats had 30 tarpon in the air from daylight until 1:00 p.m.

While Greg Hildreth and I were out fishing and I was doing this interview, a 60-pound tarpon took the bait and made four spectacular jumps that would have eclipsed Michael Jordan's best hang time. We got the tarpon up beside the boat and touched the leader -- which signifies a catch -- before the tarpon broke free to fight another day.

To learn more about fishing with Captain Greg Hildreth out of Brunswick, Georgia, call (912) 261-1763.




Check back each day this week for more about Tarpon ...

Day 1 - Tarpon King of the Pirate Coast
Day 2 - Georgia's Titanic Tarpon
Day 3 - A Typical Day of Tarpon Fishing
Day 4 - Tackle and Tips for Catching Tarpon
Day 5 - Where to Find and Catch Tarpon

John's Journal