All Jesse Ives had on his mind was catching a tarpon.
He had seen plenty of photos so he knew how beautiful a huge a tarpon is. He had heard many tarpon tales, too.
Ives got his chance to catch a tarpon onboard the Faithful II with Capt. Matt Coleman who took him out fishing in the Boca Grande Pass. They fished the evening tides from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. and time was running out on Ives' quest.
Capt. Van Hubbard helps Chance Nelson land a Goliath grouper. The bend in the rod speaks volumes about the size of the fish at the end of it.
Several grouper and sharks kept the anglers entertained but no tarpon for Jesse as the time ticked away. Already an avid fisherman and hunter, the young graduate said only hooking into a jumbo-sized silver king would make his vacation complete
Just before packing it in, the magical hit finally surged from the water. Ives eventually landed his tarpon and the memory of a lifetime.
Tarpon are the all-time icon of Boca Grade Pass but they aren't the giant of the Boca Grande Pass waters even though they are no shrimp at 100 to 200 pounds.
That distinction belongs to the Goliath grouper, a giant of the sea and the largest of the grouper family, which can reach up to 800 pounds.
The Florida state record is 680 pounds caught in 1961 in Fernandina Beach according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission archives.
Coleman, who pilots the Faithful II around Gasparilla Island, was out with 14-year-old Chance Nelson when they hooked into a big Goliath in the Boca Grande Pass while out tarpon fishing.
When Chance's rod went off, the chaos began.
After struggling to place the rod into the gimbal, the pivoted support on the fighting chair, Chance settled down for the fight. He was filled with adrenaline and could not believe the strength of the fish at the end of his line.
Chance had hoped for his first tarpon but the Goliath was the biggest fish he had ever hooked.
Fighting the powerful Goliath, Chance's eyes popped when he saw the fish surface. He could not believe his eyes. Everyone on the boat rushed to the stern to see what sea creature had emerged from the bottom of the Boca Grande Pass.
Goliath grouper are a prohibited species closed to harvest since 1990 but the FWC is reconsidering their status since they seem to have recovered strongly. Anglers who catch a Goliath quickly return the fish to the water alive.
Formerly productive fishing holes for legal-size grouper and snapper have been taken over by Goliath grouper. Goliath tend to stay in one area eating a lot of crabs and slow-moving fish. They tend to feed more in the daylight hours and are somewhat inactive at night.
Anglers today say the aggressive Goliath grouper make it nearly impossible for them to reel a keeper-size grouper or snapper before it preys on their hooked fish.
Anglers say a harvest would re-establish a more natural balance. Goliath are slow to mature, however, which make it hard for this species to return to previous population levels. There are no plans yet to re-open general harvest of this species.
Jesse Ives is from Fulton, N.Y., hometown of GM contributor Merry Beth Ryan. His father, Darin Ives, went to school with Ryan. Ives brought Jesse and his twin sister, Valerie, to Boca Grande as a high-school graduation gift. Chance Nelson is Ryan's nephew.