What's hot: Tarpon are starting to migrate along the west coast beaches. Large schools of fish will hold in and around all passes that have strong tidal flows. The easiest places to find big numbers of fish are along the beaches in clear water. I look for a large, dark shadow. Once I spot the target, I position the boat using my trolling motor to within casting range and pitch baits in the path of fish.
Bait: I use a 12-foot cast net to throw for bait. This allows me to fill the well quickly and throw in deeper water. I like to have a variety of bait; you never know what a tarpon will eat. Scaled sardines, also known as whitebait, are everyone's top choice. Threadfin herring, which are called greenbacks, are just as good but are very sensitive and die quickly once their scales fall off. Crabs can be found floating on grass lines on outgoing tides. Use a long dip net to scoop them up. Pinfish usually end up in the cast net thrown for sardines and herring.
Tactic: Approach schools of fish with care. Running motors will spook fish and shut them down. Tarpon will run to deeper water when spooked, making it difficult to sight cast. Use a push pole or a trolling motor on the lowest setting to get close to fish.
Rob Gorta charters out of St. Petersburg. Call him at (727) 647-7606 or visit www.captainrobgorta.com.