My lure landed just ahead of the disturbance on the surface. The line came tight after a couple turns of the reel's handle and the spinning rod bent almost double in my hands as the silvery fish, gills flaring, went airborne. During the fight this fish spent as much time in the air as it did in the water, but now was swimming slowly on the surface.
"Lovin' the Ladies"
Ladyfish don't have any food value, so I release them unless I'm planning to freeze a bunch of them for future bait. Chunks of ladyfish will readily be gobbled up by redfish, snook, tarpon, sharks, cobia and even speckled trout. When they are destined for the freezer, I trim off their tails (which take up a lot of space) and pack them two at a time in the long plastic bags my newspaper is wrapped in every morning.
Sounds like the classic fight of a tarpon, but this was an encounter with a ladyfish, a high jumping, hard pulling fish found almost everywhere in Southwest Florida. They have saved many a slow day for me, and probably have done the same for a number of professional guides when the target quarry didn't cooperate.
Ladyfish can be caught year-round, but October finds large schools of them roaming Charlotte Harbor, and among these schools are some of the largest specimens we see all year. They are a schooling fish, and usually if you catch one you can catch a bunch. They frequent the deep water sides of the bars running along the east and west walls of but will often be seen feeding on small baitfish in the middle of the harbor.
Ladyfish will readily take any lure, such as soft plastic tails, silvery spoons, or subsurface hard plastics worked with a speedy retrieve. They will rarely refuse a live shrimp. On the strike they jump like maniacs and their airborne antics frequently enable them to throw the hook, resulting in a "long line release." I try to avoid using lures with treble hooks when the ladyfish bite is on. Their constant head shaking and tail flopping provides too much opportunity for one of the treble's barbs to impale human parts when they come into the boat.
There is also another downside to catching ladyfish, and there's nothing ladylike about it. When hooked, just as you swing one over the side of the boat and before you can get a hand on the fish, they poop like it was going out of style. Everywhere. It's probably their last act of retaliation.
Another bonus to catching ladyfish in October: tarpon are eating them. Find a large school of ladyfish at this time of the year, and you will often find the tarpon. Put a live lady under a float on a heavy rod and reel and see what happens!