Florida angler jumps from kayak to land 115-pound tarpon

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Jul 27, 2002

Baggett jumps from kayak to land tarpon

By Bill Sargent, FLORIDA TODAY

FLORIDANA BEACH -- Dan Baggett has caught fish every way imaginable during his lifetime of sportfishing in Brevard County.

But when the 44-year-old Crescent Beach resident hooked a 115-pound tarpon last week while live-baiting from his brother's kayak, it was the beginning of a saga Baggett will be relating for a long time.

"When I pulled, she pulled. It was a standoff," said Baggett, who hardly expected to land the 6-foot-4 fish on his 7-foot rod and reel and 15-pound test line. "She was spectacular the way she jumped. She jumped at least six times. I just held on."

David Baggett, Dan's brother who lives at Floridana Beach north of Sebastian Inlet, told his brother about the estimated 150-pound tarpon he had fought for an hour and 10 minutes from his kayak the day before.

"That's all I needed to hear," said Dan. "I'd never landed a big tarpon before. It was always something I wanted to do."

The brothers launched the 12-foot sea kayak in the surf and paddled out about 100 yards. They'd caught 10-inch live mullet for bait.

Dan, the sporting goods department manager at the Indian Harbour Beach Wal-Mart store since 1986, rigged a mullet with a 3-O Owner hook impaled through the nose, and dangled a No. 2 treble hook on a short length of wire along the body of the mullet as a "stinger."

The bait wasn't in the water more than a few minutes before the tarpon slammed it.

"She headed south, toward the (Sebastian) inlet," Dan said, "and started jumping."

Dan quickly discovered that an angler cannot generate much pressure against a big fish sitting on top of a kayak.

"I couldn't get any leverage on the fish. We couldn't get her to the boat. She was running whereever she wanted, and David was paddling as hard as he could. It was David who did all the work," Dan said, laughing.

This went on for 45 minutes, sometimes as far as 300 yards offshore.

Then the tarpon ran toward the beach, and the brothers followed.

"She came in pretty close, and that's when I decided to jump out, and fight her from the beach," Dan said.

In the meantime, David beached the kayak, and their brother Billy Baggett of Cocoa Beach joined them.

"She was tired, but was still fighting. But by being on the beach I could put more pressure on her," Dan said.

After 10 minutes, the three Baggett brothers waded into the surf, cradled the big fish in their arms and slid her up on the sand just long enough to get a length measurement and a rough girth measurement.

The fight had lasted 55 minutes.

"I didn't even bother getting a scale (from the fish) as a souvenir," Dan said. "I just wanted to get her back in the water."

The three waded into deep water with the tarpon for five minutes, reviving the silvery gamester.

"All of a sudden she took one burst, and took off for the ocean. She was fine," Dan said.

"It was definitely the biggest tarpon I ever landed," Dan added. "I waited a long time to do it."
 


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