Tarpon time. It's prime time for tarpon in Tampa Bay right now. Tarpon have invaded the bay and can be found from the beaches to the upper bay. The tarpon in our region have been averaging 100 to 200 pounds, and there have already been a few reports of tarpon over 200 pounds being caught. Mike and Bob Zichmiller of Tampa landed a 205 pound tarpon last week after a nearly two-hour fight between the two anglers.
Tides can guide. Both tides have been producing good results, but your tactics should vary depending on what the tide is and your location. Focus your incoming tide fishing on the beaches and bridges where drifting threadfins and scaled sardines will produce good results.
Fishing manners. When beach fishing, remember your tarpon etiquette and give other boats plenty of space while resisting the urge to run up on pods of tarpon as soon as they surface. Your best bet will be to locate a pod of tarpon cruising along the beach and idle a ways up from the school, shut off your motor and allow yourself to drift into them, letting your baits float naturally toward the tarpon. At the bridge, fish your baits around the shadow lines and pilings that the tarpon use to ambush their prey.
Crabby bait. The outgoing tide tarpon bite has been the best around the mouth of the bay and Egmont Key. On the strong outgoing tides, the small blue crabs and pass or calico crabs are definitely your bait of choice. Spending some time at the beginning of the outgoing tide dipping up crabs will definitely pay dividends when the tarpon bite goes off. Break off the claws and hook them between the point of the shell and their back legs. Using split shots and floats is a good way to ensure you are covering all levels of the water column.
Catch and release. Remember, once you have a tarpon boatside they have exerted over 90 percent of their energy, so take extra care when reviving them and make sure they swim away under their own power to be caught another day. Now is the time to get out there and enjoy one of Tampa Bay's greatest gamefish, just watch out for those afternoon thunderstorms.