The Mississippi Gulf Coast was once a tarpon fishing destination. Reports of people catching fish off piers were common as were sightings of great schools of tarpon, which inspired one old timer to say they “were so thick you could walk from Biloxi beach to Deer Island on the backs of them”. That might be an overstatement, but various Gulf Coast towns were claiming the somewhat ambiguous title of “Tarpon Capitol of the World”.
Of course, for whatever reason, the tarpon populations have suffered and the big silvers do not come inshore around the coast like they once did. Mississippi doesn’t even have a regulation on them, but there’s many species with no regulation and that needs to be fixed, but that’s another soapbox.
Gulf Coast Research Lab scientist Jim Franks was accustomed to false alarms about juvenile tarpon, but in 2006 a local cast netter fishing in a backwater ditch caught what he thought were some juvenile tarpon. He called Jim and the fish did indeed turn out to be tarpon. Since then Jim has been studying them and funds from our coast fly clubs and the Gulf Coast Council have been helping.
Well there’s a lot of information about Jim’s work but that’s Jim’s and the GCRL’s thunder. For those interested, I would highly suggest reading the following GCRL link:
I was intrigued with the idea of Mississippi tarpon. Jim’s research will hopefully help in bringing them back. In fact, the tarpon may simply be on their way all on their own, considering the tarpon larvae and juvenile tarpon discoveries. It has been known that tarpon migrate past our shores but now it is suspected that a Northern Gulf tarpon may actually spawn about 200 miles off our shore. They may simply not come inshore because we have removed much of their food by over fishing or maybe they avoid our polluted waters.
I told Jim that his discoveries and work reminded me of Zane Grey’s story, Byme-By Tarpon. ZG was fishing in Mexico with an Indian guide that spoke little or no English. Throughout the story this guide, Attalano, would simply say:
It was meant as an encouragement, or as ZG said, “in the nature of a prophecy.” In other words, the tarpon would soon be along.
When ZG finally hooked and fought his tarpon all the way to the boat, as the guide reached for the leader, to the chagrin of ZG, the fish lunged and escaped. Of course touching the leader was not enough, it was a different time. ZG wanted to touch his fish. One could feel his disappointment when ZG wrote the following, “Isn’t it the loss of things which makes life bitter? What we have gained is ours, what is lost is gone, whether fish or use, or love or name or fame.” Believe me, for an outdoor story, that is one profound statement and just on its own it has become committed to my memory. I can’t seem to forget it, and I probably shouldn’t. Appreciate what you have now, once it’s gone, it’s gone. But let’s not be too fatalistic, maybe it’s not forever. When Attalano saw ZG’s disappointment, he gave him the perfect response, remarking “byme-by tarpon.”
In the case of Gulf Coast tarpon, we shouldn’t allow the loss of such a great sport fish. It makes me feel good that our money from the GCC Fly Fair goes to Jim’s tarpon research. Keep up the good work Jim! Remember, “byme-by tarpon!”
Speaking of Byme-by, which is an old term you don’t hear anymore meaning “after a short period of time”, it is finally Fall which means for me, “byme-by redfish.”
With two other club members I hit the marsh the day before the main day of the Fly Fair. I had looked at the tide and it looked near perfect, high early and outgoing during the sight casting window. Unfortunately, I knew the weather was very iffy and any other time I would have cancelled, but I was going to be there for he Fly Fair, so why not?
The prediction looked good of course:
But here is what happened, a strong southerly wind was present and it kept the tide from moving out:
So we were saddled with high water, plus of course a really strong wind and overcast skies blocking the sunlight. The good news is that there were fish in the marsh, I saw several and one of my companions hooked one blindcasting.
In October there are almost no bad tides. Except for the slack tides, almost all of the tides fit my profile. So, all I need is a good forecast with plenty of sun and low wind, northerly would be nice. Byme-by redfish!