Well, it happened, it was frightening, and a little embarrassing. I went overboard but not in a fun cannonball type of way. A real scare for myself, how I, and many of us often put ourselves in situations and don't think twice about the potential danger. Tarpon season is coming up and just wanted to share a scary experience I had a few seasons ago, which could potentially help others.
During the 2020 tarpon season, my friend and I were fishing off his Glasstream 221 during the pass crab flush at the St. Petersburg Skyway bridge. We met up at the Fort De Soto ramp to get some Friday evening fishing around 4:30pm. It was fairly windy conditions and we quickly loaded up on some tarpon candy aka pass crabs. It was going to be a good day!
Everything was perfect! We had a livewell full of pass crabs, not many boaters, with a ripping outgoing tide. All we needed was the tarpon to also know about these great conditions, so we could get a hookup. We started doing various drifts under the bridge trying to find a tarpon ready to play. After numerous drifts, we decided to put out the anchor w/anchor ball and set up shop. We would drop in our pass crabs, let them drift out under the bridge, no bites, reel in, and repeat.
We noticed no one was getting bites including ourselves. The tarpon just weren't in the chewing mood, so it was starting to get dark. We decided to pull anchor and get going before it gets dark. As its my friend’s boat, I always chip in for the dirty work which to me includes pulling anchor. Unfortunately, this anchor was not budging… We pulled forward on it vertically and tried to bring it up. Nope… The next move for many of us boaters is to try to take a different angle at pulling the anchor out, which often works.
Unfortunately, in this situation, I was holding the anchor line and the ball was also unclipped. I was the only connection to the anchor and the boat. As we were taking this different angle, the slack of the anchor line was quickly pulling out of my hands. I tried to do what I could to not lose my friend’s anchor and line. But before that even happened, a rope loop on the deck grabbed my ankle and without hesitation I went airborne. Bang! Off the bow and into the bay!. It took me a second to realize what had even happened. It happened so fast! Like every bad thing seems to manifest. It was similar to what they are always talking about on the Deadliest Catch tv show!
Fortunately for me, it wasn’t exactly like the deadliest catch as a 800lb crab pot wasn’t taking me to Davy Jones locker and water wasn't freezing. Luckily, enough anchor line was out that I could get to the surface, so I wasn’t being held underwater. I was able to determine the anchor line was wrapped around my foot, including my flip flop. I was able to escape my foot from my flip flop and start swimming towards the boat, and climb back in.
Once I got back on the boat, my friend and I both realized how dangerous this situation was and how much worse it could have been. I had no PFD on, no light on me, maybe a small pocket knife, and what if I would hit my head on the way overboard? What if I was fishing solo and this had happened? No one is swimming against that current!
I never would have imagined this could happen so easy. It’s the first time I have seen or witnessed it in my whole life of being on boats, but it only takes once.
So many takeaways, but here are a few:
- WEAR A PFD with a whistle attached to it!
- Make sure the anchor line is always connected to the boat
- Make sure the deck is clear around your feet
- Zip Tie your anchor to break free easier (when possible)
- Try not to fish solo in those circumstances, but bad things can happen in much calmer conditions
- AGAIN WEAR A PFD with a whistle attached to it!
Just wanted to share a story that could have gone much worse. If you’re not already, please consider wearing a PFD in the future. I know I will!