Tarpon continue to migrate along the west coast beaches. Large schools of fish will travel only a few hundred yards from the beach. I anchor up right outside the swim buoys and patiently wait for large, dark shadows or rolling fish. When I spot the target, I position the boat using my trolling motor to get within casting range and pitch baits in the path of fish. I also use the trolling motor to keep the boat from drifting into the school. The key is to approach schools of tarpon with care. Running motors scare fish and shut them down. Tarpon also will run to deeper water when spooked, making them difficult to sight-cast. I have a variety of bait; you never know what a tarpon will eat. These are my three favorites: scaled sardines, also known as "whitebait," are everyone's top choice; threadfin herring, which are called "greenbacks," are just as good as whitebaits but hard to keep alive; crabs are my third-favorite must-have bait. Tarpon are large, so it's important to use the right tackle to prevent prolonged fighting times. All my rods are rated "heavy" to handle 100-pound test line, rigged with an 80 series reel loaded with 80-pound braid and 80-pound pink fluorocarbon leader with a 6/0 live bait hook. Using the right gear will shorten the battle and save the tarpon's life.
Rob Gorta charters out of St. Petersburg. Call him at (727) 647-7606 or visit captainrobgorta.com.