Local fishing operation helps you go after the big ones out there
By Jane Bartnett
For fishing guide Capt. Brock Horner, the mighty and majestic tarpon is his passion. Known as the silver king for its shimmering skin and large size, mature tarpon can grow up to 8 feet in length, 300 pounds in weight, and can live to be 100 years old.
A celebrity in the world of tarpon fishing who knows the waters of Siesta Key, Horner was featured earlier this year on the Discovery Channel in a 13-part series called In Search of the Largest Tarpon in Florida. A professional guide for the past five years, Horner’s business — Tarpon Coast Fishing Charters — is built on years of experience spent on local waters as a competitive tarpon fisherman.
A sixth-generation south Floridian, Horner first discovered tarpon, a fish that is native to Florida’s Gulf Coast and the Caribbean, as a boy while fishing with his grandfather.
“My grandfather instilled my passion for tarpon fishing at an early age and now I’m passing it on to my 7-year-old son. He caught his first tarpon in January at 6 years old,” said the proud dad. “Tarpons are incredibly strong. As they jump out of the air, it’s an awesome show.”
A U.S. Army Ranger paratrooper veteran, Horner served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. “Right after 9-11, I enlisted in the Army. I was 17 and a junior in high school,” he said. “I went into active duty the next year after I finished high school and graduated.”
A Wounded Warrior alumnus, Horner is a graduate of Florida Gulf Coast University.
Fishermen and fisherwomen from around the world come from as far away as New Zealand, Mexico, Europe, Asia, and all parts of the United States to fish with Horner and realize their dream of catching one of these stunning fish. They travel home with a memory that will last a lifetime and coveted photos of their catch.
Speaking of his diverse clients, Horner noted that 70% are women. During the course of a year, he said, about 150 tarpon outings are made up of women anglers.
It was in the waters off Siesta Key about five years ago, Horner recalled, that a woman angler from the Northeast landed a near-record-breaking 280-pound female tarpon.
“The world record is 286 pounds,” he said. “It was a Siesta catch. We were off the Big Pass sandbar and it took two-and-a-half hours in 3 feet of water” to bring it in.
When the battle between angler and tarpon is concluded and the fish has been reeled in, Horner takes over. Trophy photos are taken of the angler and the tarpon in the water. As Florida law requires, Horner cradles the tarpon in the water, allowing it to rest and breathe. Once he is confident that the tarpon has regained its strength and is breathing normally, he allows it to swim away.
Tarpon are found in the warm waters off Siesta Key mostly from April through June. May and June, Horner reports, are prime tarpon fishing months. In the latter summer months, the tarpon head north to the Florida Panhandle to spawn. The majority of tarpon that he encounters are females travelling in schools. They are generally larger and older than the males.
“The females know where the predators are and avoid the sharks,” he said. “The young males tend to hang out where the sharks are.”
The plentiful food that the young males enjoy while swimming with the sharks is often their undoing.
“The females are smarter,” Horner said.
Horner picks up his clients by boat on Siesta Key and at other locations depending on where the tarpons are and where his clients are staying.
“I’m one of the only tarpon fishermen who fishes only for tarpon. I’m on the water 365 days a year. I follow the tarpon as they move around. I study their patterns and movements,” he said.
His boat, a 25-foot 2500 Pathfinder Hybrid, has a four-stroke 300 Yamaha outboard engine. A stable vessel, it allows Horner to navigate into shallow waters. A tower on the boat gives Horner the ability to spot tarpon in the distance.
“Our fishing equipment is the finest in the industry and we use custom saltwater rods with Shimano Stella Reels,” he stated.
Horner books eight-, 10-, and 12-hour days. The rate for an eight-hour day is $1,600, a 10-hour day is $2,000, and a 12-hour day is $2,400.
The boat can accommodate groups of up to five people and families are welcome. All bookings include bait, rods, reels tackle, cooler and fishing licenses. Currently, he is booking day trips for October and November.
Reach Horner directly on his cell phone at (941) 822-5908 or visit tarponcoastfishing.com.