Tarpon time: Tarpon have invaded the bay and can be found from the beaches to the upper bay. They have been averaging 100 to 200 pounds, and there have been a few reports of tarpon more than 200 pounds. Your tactics should vary depending on the tide and your location.
Focus incoming tide fishing on the beaches and bridges, where drifting threadfins and scaled sardines will produce good results. When beach fishing, resist the urge to run up on pods of tarpon as soon as they surface. Locate a pod cruising along the beach, idle a ways up from the school, shut off your motor and drift into it, letting your baits float naturally. At the bridge, fish around the shadow lines and pilings that the tarpon use to ambush prey.
The outgoing tide tarpon bite has been best around the mouth of the bay and Egmont Key. On the strong tides, small blue crabs and pass or calico crabs are your bait of choice. Spending some time at the beginning of the tide dipping up crabs will pay dividends when the bite goes off. Break off the claws and hook them between the point of the shell and the back legs. Using split shots and floats will ensure you are covering all levels of the water column.
Matt Santiago can be reached at (813) 205-2327 or CaptainMatt Santiago@gmail.com or online at FishingGuideTampa.com.