I’m writing while listening to weather reports of a catastrophic hurricane that is not very far from powering through the Lesser Antilles and on it’s way to my former home in the Florida Keys. Cat 5 at the moment and possible getting stronger to a cat 6 if the wind speed goes up another 26 miles per hour. Many years ago I was living in Isla Mujeres Mexico and we got word of an approaching storm from friends in the states who were watching the weather channel in the US. We had no idea a storm was coming much less the monster that was tearing through the Caribbean like a saw blade ripping through soft wood. Hurricane Gilbert was it’s name and it was hyped up on warm water and some sort of universal energy that promised for it to be remembered forever. Turned out it was the “hurricane of the century.”
Our island concrete bunker style house on the island was built by two gracious German ladies that knew eventually their house would be in the path of some kind of hurricane of some unknown strength. We didn’t realize it at the time we moved in but they had a plan to survive anything that could come their way. There was no plywood for shutters to be had because there wasn’t a lumber store on the island so I stole the wood off of a local real estate sign to board up my windows. I didn’t feel bad since the hurricane was going to remove the plywood anyway.
That done and preparations complete I turned my attention to my charter that I had planned for that afternoon. I knew that I wasn’t going to see any money from any charters anytime soon so this was my last chance to fund our account for a while. I carried my 25 horse Johnson to my skiff that had been given to me by Capt Stu from Jack Nicklaus’ sport fishing yacht “Sea Bear”….they found it floating in the middle of the ocean on their way over from Key West.
All loaded up my boat and picked up my angler at the town dock. We took a short ride to the middle of the lagoon not too far from the ferry dock in downtown Isla. I set our drift and asked my guy to blind cast in the direction of a long channel that ran north and south in-between two flats . First cast we hooked up an 80 pound tarpon using a 52M Mirror Lure. We landed that fish pretty quick and re set in the same spot and jumped two more. On one cast the fish threw the lure and another fish picked it up and we jumped him too. This crazy scenario of jumping and catching tarpon went on for the next 3 hours being continually hooked up or fighting a fish the entire time. Final count was around 15 fish in the air. That might have been my best 3 hours of tarpon fishing ever.
We motored back to the dock exhausted and happy from a memorable day of fishing. I don’t think the guy tipped me but that was OK, I had just as much fun as if I had caught the fish myself. The next day Hurricane Gilbert slammed into our beautiful island and tore it apart. One of the freighters that was in the harbor clocked the highest wind speed before his anemometer broke at 219 mph. It was a sad day when we came out of hiding to discover what Gilbert had done to us. We left the island so as not to put any extra strain on supplies that were coming in and we returned that spring to finish the sailfish season but it was never the same again. Good by Isla Mujeres, I’ll never forget that one incredible pre hurricane day of tarpon fishing.