Woman hooks 80-pound tarpon near Puerto Rico
Sherwood uses 8-pound test line to reel in fish.
By Harry Morse
Lady anglers have all the luck!
While I fly fished my fanny off for tarpon on the shallow flats of Puerto Rico, Pam Sherwood hooked a worldrecord class tarpon on an 8-pound test line.
She dangled a live sardine out of the back of our boat, and the fight was on.
I wanted to try fishing for big tarpon as part of a cruise ship vacation. Since we departed from San Juan, Puerto Rico it was the logical place to book a light tackle/fly fishing trip for tarpon.

We tracked down light tackle specialist Francisco “Pochy” Rosario in the small town of Boqueron. He pioneered light tackle guiding on the west side of the island. Eight years ago he started chasing tarpon on the local flats after moving over from running deep sea charters. For a guide so hard to find, he has an impressive list of avid fly fishing and light tackle anglers from Oregon to England.
Pam Sherwood enjoys light tackle spin fishing but does not saltwater fly fish. Pochy said he could accommodate both our wishes with me casting flies off the front of the boat and Pam fishing bait out of the back. He felt both of us would hook tarpon with most of the action coming on live sardines and Clouser flies patterned after them.
Climbing aboard his 17-footskiff, I was impressed with the quality of his gear. He carried a complement of five quality fly rods and five light spinning rods. His live well was filled with silvery sardines he caught with a cast net hours before we arrived at 7 a.m. and he had an assortment of other baits. His selection of flies ranged from traditional Clouser Minnow imitations to a home tied floater.
We sped across three miles of crystal clear flats to Cobo Rojo Pass and pulled in behind several local fishing boats cleaning their night’s catch. A school of 60- 80 pound tarpon lazed along the surface down current of the fishermen picking up scraps and stalking bait fish. We anchored and waited for the schooling fish to move into casting range. As the tarpon worked their way past us I stepped up on the casting platform and started to cast. The fish spooked and bolted before my fly hit the water.
So much for laying the fly out in front of the fish. Pochy baited up two rigs, one with a live sardine and the other with belly meat from a small tuna and cast them out for Pam. He chummed with live sardines and handed me a second fly rod with a silver Clouser Minnow fly on it. The tarpon responded to the live bait and moved back toward us. Almost immediately a tarpon lunged at my fly but missed.
Pam had a hit on one of the bait rods but the tarpon shook the hook with the first jump. Then one crushed a bait and streaked off making the light spinning reel sing. Suddenly the line slacked. The hook was flattened.
The tarpon lingered just out of fly casting range on the clear flats. We watched them fining and cruising around. I picked up one of the spinning rods and heaved out a live sardine on a circle hook.
Immediately a tarpon struck my bait and streaked away, jumping at 100 yards. Pochy cautioned me not to put too much pressure on the fish since the line was only 8-pound-test. A half hour later and three jumps the hook pulled loose. We got a very good look at a 120-130 pound silvery fish. My adrenaline was pumping.
Over the next five hours we changed locations three times fishing mangrove bays, dock structures and flats. We jumped two more medium size tarpon and I brought a small 5-7 pound baby tarpon to the boat for release in a steamy mangrove estuary.
Pochy’s tenacity impressed me. He continually changed locations, stalked fish, changed bait and flies. He was working trying to get us each a big fish.
Pam had kicked back and relaxing when a tarpon hit her 8-pound-test offering. It ripped line off the spinning reel as it headed seaward. The drag was just tight enough to embed the circle hook but not tight enough to break the line. Pochy continually checked the drag.
Our jaws dropped when the fish cleared the water on its first jump. It was not one of the 15-30 pound tarpon we were casting to on top of the water. It was in the 80-pound class.
The fish reduced a full spool of line to a quarter spool and Pochy started the motor and followed the fish. Pam’s first solid hook up on a tarpon came on the lightest line on board, 8-pound test.
Over the next hour the fish led us through an obstacle course punctuated by acrobatic leaps. It swam towards buoys, boats and docks.
Pochy skillfully maneuvered the boat to keep the line from tangling while keeping side pressure on the big fish gradually wearing it down.
When Pochy reached down and grabbed the tarpon’s mouth we realized how big the fish was. Did we want to keep it? As a catch and release guide he did not want to kill the fish and neither did we. After Pochy released the fish we decided to call it a day. Pam was drained and we headed in for a cold beer.
What a way to top off a vacation.
Pochy Rosario is a topnotch guide and can be reached at (787) 547-7380 or visit his Web site at www.lighttackleadventure.8k.com.
He is Coast Guard certified and endorsed by the official Puerto Rico Tourism Company. He fishes out of Boqueron, a two-plus hour drive on good highways from San Juan or a short 20 minute hop flight to Mayaguez. He can help arrange travel and accommodations. Prices start at $275.00 for two anglers for a half day.