Tarpon usually start to show up on the west central coast of Florida
around the middle of May. They migrate up from warmer waters and early
in the season, before they arrive here, will be seen laid up on grass
flats in areas like Bull Bay and Turtle Bay in Charlotte Harbor, and
in Pine Island Sound, probably resting from the journey.
They’ll also pack into a well know
tarpon hangout called Boca Grande Pass. World renowned for it’s two
deep holes, and the hundreds of "silver kings" that gather
there. If it’s heavy tackle, horse ‘em to the boat action you’re
looking for, then this is the place to be.
On the other hand, if you’d rather
test your skill at light tackle or fly fishing for these monsters,
fishing the beaches can be the most heart pounding method to go up
against such a prized catch. Not only can you see the fish, some will
even take the bait right on the surface, right in front of your eyes.
When the action gets into full swing,
there will be literally hundreds of tarpon in schools cruising,
milling and "daisy chaining" all along the beaches. Some
schools will hold 10 or 20 fish and some will hold 50 to 100 or more.
Some will be in as little as three feet of water and some will be out
in twenty. The day starts just before sunrise, usually sitting tight
against the beach waiting for the first schools to show.
As the fish move, some will come to the
surface, roll and take in a gulp of air. Aside from the anticipation
that you’re already feeling, that’s about when you start to feel a
weakness somewhere around your knees. To cast to these fish, you need
to move ahead of the school. The best way to maneuver around them is
with an electric trolling motor. Once ahead, you can intercept them
and drop your baits out in front of the school.
In most cases, the rolling fish will
not be the ones to eat. Casting far enough ahead will allow the bait
or fly to sink down, where it will hopefully get inhaled by the
largest one down in the column. On the other hand, tarpon that are
daisy chaining just might take that bait right on the surface.
Daisy chaining is said to be a
pre-spawning ritual. That’s where they’ll slowly swim head to tail
in a tight circle, sometimes barely moving in any direction. More
often than not, these will be the first fish of the day to show, and
in the early morning calm, a delicate cast is in order. Lay the bait
just outside the chain, where the fish moving toward it will spot it.
Sometimes they’ll roll over on it, right on the surface. Other
times, they’ll peel off the chain after it sinks, long enough to
snatch it, then return only to feel the sting of a hopefully, well set
they take the bait it’s not usually a savage strike. You’ll feel
dead weight, and a lot of it. At this point you’ll really need to
set the hook. I mean drive it home three or four times. If he’s not
running off drag, set it again. It may seem like overkill, but they
have extremely hard, bony mouths, and you’ve got to bury the hook if
you want to land him.
When a hooked tarpon realizes something’s
not right, you’ll know immediately. He’ll take to the air, usually
in a series of aerial displays, jumping and rattling his gills. Then
you’ll understand why you need a reel with a good, smooth drag
system, because now he’s going to make a mad dash for Mexico and all
you can do is let him.
Try to gear your tackle so that you can
get a fair fight out of the fish, but will still be able to revive and
release him unharmed. Spinning gear in the 20 to 30 pound class is
preferred. For the fly anglers, a 12 Weight outfit is perfect. Any
less and you will most likely prolong the fight to the point where you
can harm them. A short length of 80 to 100 pound mono leader is also
recommended, again because of their rough mouths.
For live baiters, the bait of choice is
a live blue crab. About a two to three inch carapace is preferred, and
they can still be cast a mile. Pinfish, scaled sardines and threadfin
herring are also good baits, with the latter hooking several decent
tarpon last season. For those throwing flies, last years best was the
Black Death. It can be tied in several colors, including black and
purple, black and blue and black and red.
Most years, tarpon will hang around the
beaches thru July. They average between 90 and 100 pounds, with most
catches ranging from 60 to 150 pounds. Experience one and you’ll no
doubt find out why they call tarpon fishing a sickness.
By Captain Kevin
Chamberlain, Sarasota FL
Identification, Habitat, Bait, Rigs and Tackle used to catch
them and where to find them.... READ
MORE HERE ON TARPON FISHING