An avid Florida saltwater fly angler experienced a close call with tragedy last week when he tumbled overboard while fighting a 90-pound tarpon, accidentally slicing an arm vein on his boat’s spinning trolling motor propeller. Before the injured fisherman gave up the fight with his silver adversary and motored to shore for help, doctors said he lost nearly a pint of blood.
Del Milligan, fishing scribe for the Lakeland, Fla. Ledger, recently related the amazing story of 54-year-old Rick Cannon, who couldn’t resist going fishing on what appeared to be a potentially lucky day to be on the water with rod in hand--Saturday, July 7 (7-7-07).
“When I turned the trolling motor on, the momentum took me right on out. I hit the water, and my thought process was, ‘I’ve got my hat and my sunglasses. That’s good. But my cell phone is in my pockets, and that’s not good. But the fish is still on,’” he said.
Cannon told Milligan that he felt the trolling motor bump his right arm as he treaded water, but didn’t realize he was injured until he climbed back into his 20-foot Lake and Bay, while still fighting the fish.
That’s when he first saw his arm was covered with blood.
“I put my finger on it, and thought, ‘How am I going to fight this fish and not bleed to death?’ I pumped on the fish twice, but I couldn’t let go to reel,” he said.
Cannon said he pondered his situation for a moment—perhaps as any tarpon-crazed angler might.
He told the newspaper writer that he figured “My wife’s going to be really mad if I die out here fighting this fish.”
With that thought in mind, Cannon remained calm, broke off the line, and headed to shore as quickly as his 175-HP outboard would take him.
In less than 10 minutes--still before 7:30--he was at Miller’s Marina in Boca Grande, where EMTs applied tourniquets to his wound and sped him to a nearby hospital.
And what did he think about missing the opportunity to boat a tarpon on 7-7-07?
“I broke him off under my terms, so I almost considered it a caught fish,” said the fortunate angler.
Whatever the case, it’s a good bet he’ll never forget this one that got away.