Unsuccessful on previous trips, cancer survivor fulfills goal by touching tarpon

Captain Rob Gorta has been chasing tarpon professionally for over 15 years around Tampa Bay and this year has been one of his best.

“We’ve landed over 80 this year since the season started,” Gorta said. “This year we’ve luckily had great weather. There weren’t any low-pressure systems and the southwest wind didn’t last for long periods of time.”

Starting in May, Gorta began concentrating his efforts on the silverking. In his travels he’s done everything from anchoring and chumming fish at Bean Point, to chasing them on the beach or drifting crabs on flushing outgoing tides at Egmont Key.

“Every trip is different,” he explained, also saying his largest tarpon landed this year was around 250 pounds.

“The only thing that really changed on a daily basis is the amount of people fishing,” noting that on weekends the fishing pressure in popular areas was at an extreme level.

One of the constants and biggest problems this year remained the presence of sharks. A large hammerhead patrolled Bean Point while a school of bull sharks seemed to key in on tarpon hooked around Egmont Key.

Gorta uses heavy tackle with 80-pound Spider-Wire braid and 100-pound rated rods, allowing clients to fight tarpon in a faster manner and catch more fish with less sharks intervening.

Gorta recently hooked six fish, bringing three to the boat. Fishing with him was a cancer survivor who had a goal to touch a tarpon after being unsuccessful on previous trips.

“He called me three years ago and said he needs to face grab a tarpon. We hooked a giant fish and ended up losing it on that trip,” Gorta recalled. “His wife Danielle surprised him with a gift certificate for his birthday this year. We had a great day and got it done.”

July typically signals the end of the bigger herds of tarpon being around Tampa Bay’s beaches and passes. Tarpon had been eating heavily in preparation of heading offshore to spawn, and many schools over the last full and new moon have completed that goal.

“When they come back they aren’t all that schooled up. That’s when we start to see more fish up in the bay and around the bridges as the season winds down,” Gorta said

Heading into late July and August, Gorta will adjust his targets.

“I’ll still fish for them but it won’t be hardcore. I’ll be fishing more on the flats for snook and redfish. The beach snooking has been on fire. Maybe just checking for tarpon here or there on trips,” he said.