What's hot: The water temperature on the flats has climbed to the lower 80s and brought the tarpon migration inshore to feed at first light. Those who chum bait along the Intracoastal Waterway will find that the tarpon will follow the scent up the slick. This is a great opportunity to present a large pinfish under a cork. Oftentimes the battle takes place in 3 to 4 feet of water, and the tarpon jumps numerous times and wears itself out quickly. The shallows inside Sand Key, the north end of Honeymoon Island and the flats around the Anclote River are all well-known tarpon hangouts. Cast small crabs or threadfins to the fish that roam the outside beaches. The best strategy in this situation is to watch the fish and wait until it drops off into the deeper blue-green water. This is a key feed zone, and it also helps to disguise the offering. Free-lining the bait works best.
Tactics: A 60-pound leader works fine when combined with a 5/0 hook to land most St. Joseph Sound tarpon. Strong side pressure bring these fish boatside quickly. Though tarpon roll on top of the water, oftentimes these fish dive to the bottom to feed. A No. 1 split shot placed a couple of feet up the line drags the bait low into the strike zone. When a school is working up the beach, be sure to allow at least 1,000 yards in setting up ahead for a cast. This extra distance prevents the fish from picking up motor noise as they move into range.
Jim Huddleston charters out of Tampa, Palm Harbor and Clearwater and can be reached at (727) 439-9017 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.