This has been a summer for the record books! With heat in the triple digits, rougher than usual seas, and brutal afternoon wind, we've been having to dig deep for the fish, literally. But, there is a silver lining, Tarpon fishing.
The Tarpon bite has been on fire! We've landed 2 in two days as well several others that came off. They're popping up in all the usual places. The Menhaden pods on the beach are holding more Tarpon than we've seen in years. A major part of my morning ritual includes catching bait for my charters, and every morning I'm seeing Tarpon roll in the pods. The sizes are all over the spectrum, from schoolie sized fish around 30-80 pounds, to giant fish in the 100-200 pound class. The fish are so preoccupied with feeding that you'll often idle into the pods and get within a couple yards of the fish before they realize you're on them! It's definitely a site to see!
There are a couple different ways you can target Tarpon in the bait pods. One of the more common methods is "free lining". Essentially, you tie on an 8 foot, 50-80 pound Mono or Fluorocarbon leader and follow it up with a 7/0 circle hook. No weight is used. For Tarpon, I definitely prefer High Seas Fluorocarbon and follow up with a 7/0 Owner, circle hook. Don't skimp on your tackle when targeting these fish. The fight will be long, drags will be tight and with these heavy weights jumping about, throwing in big head shakes, there will be ample opportunity for equipment failures.
Once the live well is black with plenty of large Menhaden, load up a bucket with dead Menhaden. you'll want to stage up current of the pods you intend to fish. You'll want to turn off the outboard and drop in the trolling motor. Once in place, quickly toss out a few dead Menhaden. A bait bat comes in handy here. Tarpon will gladly take a dead Pogey. If you really want to do it right, cut up a mess of them ahead of time. Fire a couple hand fulls of chum just ahead of the pod. You could even take this a step further, stopping ahead of the pods, and tossing out dead bait to fire up the fish well before sending out a hooked bait. This allows the leery fish to take down the defenses so to speak. Once you establish a bit of trust, the odds will be more in your favor. Once you're confident that you've adequately chummed, send out your flat line. You'll want to be using a dead bait. The idea is to match the freebies you've been handing out. With the fish fired up, the odds quickly become in your favor.
There are a number of ways to catch Tarpon but by far my favorite and easiest method is Inlet/Jetty fishing. The rocks lining the inlet are prime habitat for Mullet and other bait fish. On any given day, you'll see the Tarpon rolling on the tips and Mullet coming out of the water, fleeing for their lives. Since I know the bait are there and I know the Tarpon are there, I focus my attention there. I stage up current of the jetty tips, and set up a 3 or 4 rod spread. It's important to cover the water column. Tarpon aren't limited to the bottom so it's always best to cover all your bases. I typically run 2 rigs on the bottom(especially in late day as the Tarpon head deep for cooler water), 1 mid column(I use a 1-2oz trolling weight with a trailing 8 foot leader and hook) and 1 surface rig, either a balloon or an extra large cork, slip rigged, with the correct weight and 6 foot leader leading to a 7/0 Circle hook. You'll need moving water. Once the tide starts going slack, this system will not work.
The best times to target Tarpon are always early in the morning or later in the day 1-2 hours before sunset. Plan your trip accordingly and you'll eventually catch that elusive Silver King....
Florida inshore charter fishing. Jacksonville fishing charters. Mayport fishing charters.