Tarpon fishing can be compared to hunting for marlin or sail fish. Some days you don’t get any bites and other days you jump a dozen fish. One of the big keys to successful trips is fishing around the correct lunar periods.
On the full and the new moons, tides around Tampa Bay are at their strongest. These tides drastically move bait fish around, creating what we call “hill tides”. On the hill tides crabs are lifted off the bottom and flushed out the passes. Some times we will dip these crabs up and use them for bait. Other times we will fish with threadfin herring or shad. Our bait choices depend on what gives us the best opportunity to hook tarpon.
If or when we get hooked up with the mighty silver king, there are a few ways to battle the fish. The first is to keep the drag fairly tight and try to reduce the battle to 20 minutes or so. In this method, we do not aggressively follow the fish. We let the 300 yards of braided line do the work. This allows the fish the best chance of survival. Another way to battle the fish is more passive, that is, we follow the fish with a looser drag. This can prolong the battle for up to an hour. The fish is more exhausted with this method, but the chance for pictures is increased and this battle often creates the fishing trip of a lifetime.
Once the fish has been tired, we can grab the leader. In tarpon fishing, a leader touch constitutes a catch, but once the leader is touched the line usually breaks because it has worn down through the acrobatic jumps and the sand paper like mouth of the fish. During the fight, it is recommended to take as many pictures or as much video as possible because good tarpon media is hard to come by. Tarpon season is generally from the middle of May to the middle of July.
Here are some important facts to consider when thinking about a tarpon trip:
1. Be willing to start very early, usually 6 am. Sometimes your best chance at catching one is within the first few hours of day light.
2. Be prepared for a lot of boat movement. Tarpon fishing sometimes requires long runs up and down the beach to locate the fish. Sometimes these runs occur when the seas in and around the passes are rough.
3. Be patient. We may look at the tarpon for hours before we get a bite. Changing the species to another fish during a tarpon trip is not recommended. If tarpon fishing is slow, fishing for other species will probably also be slow.
4. Tarpon fishing is not busy fishing, a lot of work is involved in getting to the point where we might get one tarpon bite.
5. Bathrooms and marinas are often very far from the tarpon grounds. Therefore, it is recommended that clients prepare accordingly.
6. Tarpon are the most powerful inshore saltwater sport fish. Therefore, the process to catch them often requires a determined commitment by the captain and the client.
If a client has never tarpon fished before these facts will help set a proper expectation for this expensive trip.