Hot, windless days are great for spotting rolling tarpon in the backwaters of Tampa Bay and deeper canal systems along the Intracoastal Waterway. Tarpon ranging from juveniles in the 5- to 10-pound range to full-grown 60- to 100-pound fish are mid- to late-summer favorites. Juvenile tarpon seek brackish creek mouths in the upper reaches of Tampa Bay this time of year where they can be targeted with live baits or artificial lures. Look for the fish to be rolling best on the midpart of the incoming tide. Keeping pilchards alive in these nearly freshwater systems is difficult so keep a variety of soft plastics and small twitch baits on hand. Look for the larger fish to stage up in open water, around deeper bait-holding areas around the bridges and ports. These fish can be targeted with artificial lures. Sinking plugs in different sink rates will produce strikes when the right cast is made. Learning to read these rolling fish will give you an idea of how far to lead them and how long to let your plug sink before starting your retrieve. Fresh cut bait is perhaps the most consistent bait. Big circle hooks are necessary when using such big baits.
Tyson Wallerstein runs Inshore Fishing Charters in the Clearwater/St. Petersburg area and can be reached at (727) 692-5868 and via email at flatsmonster.com.