Captain’s Corner: Buckle up, the tarpon are here

Published May 11 2018
Updated May 11 2018

Tarpon season is here, and the fish are showing up in numbers along the beaches. While there have been tarpon in the bays and backwaters for awhile, there were very few schools cruising the coast until a few days ago. Then, seemingly overnight, big pods appeared moving both north and south. One school we encountered had at least 500 fish in it. But finding the fish doesn’t get you the hook-ups. They’ve been very difficult to coax into biting. Beach fishing has required extreme patience with lots of casting and just a few strikes. To improve your chances, avoid very clear water. We followed a school last week that refused to bite until it encountered murkier water flowing out of an inlet. As soon as it entered the dirtier water, we hooked three in a row. Changing to a lighter leader can help land a few more tarpon bites if the fish have lockjaw. We lower our leader size to 50-pound fluorocarbon in very clear water. The fish have a better chance of chewing through it during a long fight, but it’s worth the risk to get more strikes. Mix up your bait. On a stretch of beach where numerous boats are casting crabs for bait, switching to a threadfin herring or sardine can provide an edge. We’ve had good luck drifting cigar minnows lately, which is not generally considered a top tarpon bait.

Ed Walker charters out of Tarpon Springs. He can be contacted at [email protected]m.