Tarpon fishing has really taken off. From the far reaches of upper Tampa Bay to the beaches, the tarpon seem happy that the weather has settled in on schedule. After a cold winter, all is as it should be. This past weekend was hectic with a lot of boats, but that will settle as well.
Tactics: Deeper water around the bridges is close to a sure thing. Anchor near a bridge piling and drift a bait back in the tide. A float on your anchor line lets you get away quickly when hooked up. Don't forget to retrieve it after the release. Night fishing can be fantastic. Full and new moons offer a great flow of pass crabs the tarpon can't resist. Put one on a hook and free-line it back. Whitebait and threadfins also work. Drifting the passes is another winner. Idle uptide where the current flows strongest and drift back with baits in tow. Stronger tides are generally best but watch for rolling fish on any tide stage.
Beaches: For sightcasting, cast a bait in a fish's line of travel. In water over 10 feet, they'll tolerate an outboard some distance off, but for shallower water use a trolling motor or, better yet, a push pole. Set up in front of the fish and let them come. You can chase them the length of the beach, but they won't eat.
Paul Hawkins runs FlatsGuy charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 560-6762.