The fishing is hot in Jacksonville right now. With a wide variety of inshore options to choose from, it's easy to change it up and target a different species of fish when one either slows in productivity or you simply become burned out on the technique. The Flounder are showing up in good numbers, The Mangrove Snappers are everywhere, the Slot Reds are always abundant, then you have sharks and Tarpon in the Inlet,and Bull Reds in the river. And if that's not enough, the Shrimp Boats are now on the beach and we have insane action fishing behind them right now. June 1st every year marks the opening of the beach shrimping season every Summer. When all else fails, you'll always find a taker behind a Shrimp Boat.
The Tarpon bite in strong in a number of areas right now. We're seeing them in solid numbers in Mayport Inlet, around the George Crady Bridge in Nassau Sound, Clapboard Creek, and a number of intercostal creeks in Jax Beach. Captain Steve of Madness Charters picked up 4 big fish from 80 to 140 pounds this week in Mayport Inlet.
The tide plays an integral roll when targeting Tarpon. The last hour of the out going tide as well as the first hour of the incoming have been best, however, fishing has also been productive during the full stretch of the incoming cycle.
There are a number of rod spread configurations that will work when targeting Tarpon. Steve's goto method involves a 4 rod setup, two bottom rigs, one at mid column, and 1 flat line. The bottom rigs can be rigged any number of ways and work just fine but, the rig that seems to work best is a Dropper Rig with a 3 foot 80 pound Flourocarbon leader to a 7/0 circle hook, and a 40 pound mono leader to the lead(If you're unfamiliar with the Dropper Rig, a quick Google search will bring up plenty of diagrams). Rigging this way will ensure that when the fish takes to the air, throwing those big head shakes, the lead will break off allowing you to fight the fish without a heavy counter weight potentially pulling the hook or breaking the line.
The mid column bait is rigged with a trolling sinker from 1/2oz to as heavy as needed given the speed of the current. Use the same leader and hook used on the Dropper rigs. You'll want the leader to be 4-6 feet long.
The Flat Line will often require some amount of weight. Especially during stronger tides. You'll want the weight to be as light as possible. You only need enough lead to keep the live bait under the surface. Generally, a small split shot or two will get the job done.
As for bait, Menhaden, medium to large Mullet, and Thread Fin Herring are all great options. You'll need a lot of bait with all the by-catch you'll be dealing with. In particular, Rays and Sharks. They can make Tarpon fishing in the Inlet a real bear at times. Not to mention expensive! Based on the volume of bait needed, Menhaden will always be the best option. This time of year it's easy to black out a live well with minimal effort.
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