April is right around the corner and typically I would be telling you it’s a little early for Tarpon but this year it seems as everything has been pushed ahead due to a mild winter. Tarpon are starting to show in the bay and even on the beaches early this year and getting a head start and getting on the top of the bite early is the first important step to catching Tarpon or any other fish for that matter
Tarpon fishing is one of my favorite fish to put clients on. There is nothing more rewarding than to have clients come all the way across the United States to get the Silver King checked off of their bucket list and I get to be the guy to do it. It’s one of those fish you just have to catch and once you get your first fish boat side you will be hooked. To add to this Tarpon fishing is one of the hardest fish to hook and even harder to land. Fact is about 50 percent of fish hooked get off from there acrobatic jumps and freakish power. You will have to do EVERYTHING right to stand a chance to get your trophy in for a picture. I have spent years studying the Silver King and have had the pleasure of working with some of the other premier Tarpon guides in the bay over my 12 years of guiding to become an accomplished Tarpon guide. It’s not something everybody does and you have to love it and put your time in because it’s some of the most advanced fishing I have ever done. Here are a few tips to get you started in Tarpon fishing.
Gear is the first thing you need to look at. I see so many people out their fishing the passes and the tackle is typically too small. This is bad for you because you are going to lose most fish you hook and also bad for the fish because you will fight that Tarpon nearly to death. Heavy spinning gear is the best choice for Tampa Bay. I love the Daiwa saltiest 6500 reels matched with the 8 foot St Croix tidewater 40l rods, they hold up the the biggest of fish and have plenty of backbone and drag to land the fish. 50 to 65 lb Ohero Braided line matched with 60lb Ohero fluorocarbon leader and a Daiichi 5/0 circle hook. Knots are also VERY important; I like to use a double uni- knot for line to leader and single Uni from leader to hook. You will also add strength with a Spider hitch on you main line. This sounds like a simple rig and it is but always remembers that you are stressing this tackle to its max and sometimes beyond, so you don’t have a lot of room for error.
Finding Tarpon is not too hard as they have oxygen bladders and breach the surface periodically to gulp air. This makes it easier than other species to see them from a distance and also to read what direction they are moving. Areas to look this time of year are no big secrets as fish typically run parallel to the beaches and drop off into deeper water on the passes and bridges. Timing is everything and knowing what these fish do around the moon phases will determine you level of success. Knowing when the fish are going versus where they have been will be a great model to base your Tarpon fishing stage. Typically around your New and Full Moons seem to be the most productive times as the tides flow is the strongest during these periods of the month. Fishing those strong outgoing tides with Pass crabs is one of the best ways to target Tarpon. These pass crabs can be found floating with the outgoing tides on the moon phases mentioned above. Free lined or sometimes using a small split shot to keep the crab down will be a simple but effective way that works. When drifting the passes it is always very important to make sure you make full drifts of the pass and don’t short drift anyone. This has become a problem as too many people that don’t know the correct way try to go out there and Tarpon fish. The key to Tarpon fishing starts with a good drift. You can’t catch fish if you’re not on them. Another great feature that will help you in the deeper passes is using a bottom machine to locate fish that are deep. I have become a better Tarpon guide simply from the using of Technology from my Simrad NSS 16with the structure scan and side imaging. This lets you see the school and how far out you are from the school of fish. It’s the little things like this that will help you catch more fish during those days that are a grind.
Beach fishing is another great way to catch Tarpon and there is no better thrill then sight casting a Tarpon on the beach at sunrise. Water depths are typically shallow so using free line bait or I like to use the all new Cajun Thunder Magnum heavy duty floats work great. This is also a great time to get on the trolling motor as the shallow water depths tend to make these fish a bit spooky. As mentioned above the technology of today makes things easier and helps us catch more fish. I have become a better Tarpon fisherman thanks to my Rhodan trolling motor and its GPS anchor technology. It enables you to stay with the school easier and keeps the bait in the school. Remember beach fishing is become very popular and with popularity comes boat traffic and lots of fisherman. If we all do things right and respect one another we will al catch more fish. If someone is fishing a school of fish just moves to the next or try to work together on that school of fish. We will all win in the end. Best tip I could give you is to book a Tarpon trip with a Tarpon guide. Whether it’s me or another guide you will learn more in the 6hours than you will learn the entire season for this year and next. Tarpon fishing is not rocket science but knowing the tricks will be what puts fish to the boat. If you would like to get out for some Tarpon fishing I’m a Full Time guide at work hard for all clients. You can reach me at 813-727-9890 or www.steadyactionfishingcharters.com