What's hot: Warming water has triggered large schools of baitfish to enter Tampa Bay and move farther inland. Tarpon will take advantage of this annual spring migration and concentrate where baitfish are plentiful. Bridge structures fit the bill. Although some tarpon winter here, they are usually smaller and will not expend much energy to chase a fly. There are two methods of catching these acrobatic silver kings.
Night fishing: Bridge lights attract baitfish, and tarpon will feed aggressively within inches of bridge structures during a moving tide. This is really combat-type fishing because casts are short to sighted fish that are large and acrobatic. Rather than tie or anchor your boat, use an electric motor to get you in position and away from tackle-wrecking structures after hooking a fish. Size 1 to 1/0 white flies with 60-pound shock tippets will attach to a 20-pound class tippet.
Daytime: Tarpon will roll and show themselves early and late in the day. Time spent on the surface is usually brief, so use a rod rigged with a full-sinking line, leader the same as at night and same-sized flies in darker colors. Black, purple and combinations of these colors are effective. Cast and allow the fly to sink before beginning a retrieve with short strips.
Pro pointers: After hooking a fish, keep the rod close to the water, pulling against the fish to keep it off balance. Use older rods and lines. Tackle will take a beating.
Fly fisherman Pat Damico runs charters in lower Tampa Bay and can be reached at captpat.com and (727) 504-8649.