Silver Anniversary

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A LOT HAS CHANGED in the Florida Keys since my first visit in May 1991 but, fortunately, a lot of things have remained the same: namely, the mass migration of grown-up tarpon through gin clear shallows. Confession: I haven’t made 25 consecutive return trips just for the conch fritters.

If you’ve never seen the annual spring tarpon migration in the Keys, it is truly one of nature’s great spectacles. The big pushes typically start in April. By mid May they’re in critical mass, and by late June they’re on their way out. Somedays it’s just a trickle past a given spot: ones and twos and small packs following the same tidal currents and bottom contours year after year. On other days they come in hordes: a hundred, three hundred, great writhing meatball masses of floating, slow-rolling, tailing tarpon.

The changes in the fishery that I mentioned above have little to do with population growth, because there’s not much vacant land left in the Keys and it has become an expensive place to turn a shovel, pour a slab, and make a profit. Water quality certainly isn’t as good as it once was but the tarpon are still coming, and this year we saw as many, or more, fish as we’ve seen in a decade. Tackle, skiffs, flies, and techniques have changed; some for the better, some not so much (electric motors are the spawn of the devil) but that’s a whole n’other story…

Will it all hold up for another 25 years? I certainly hope so; and if I’m still casting I know where I’ll be in late May 2041.

Herein you’ll find a selection of images from this year’s trip. To see more Keys Tarpon images that I’ve shot over the years, please click here.

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Bridge slalom on a bright still morning

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Bull session: waiting on the first push

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Hey, there they are…

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Close quarters

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Windy days mean snappy fish

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Re-entry

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Slack tide

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Oof-dah!

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Blake Brown serving snacks to a mob of tarpon

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Sea serpent

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End game

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Let’s us preserve the moment in photos

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