Since most of the big migratory tarpon have gone, it's time to turn attention to the resident juvenile fish. The majority of true anglers that I know would rather catch and release 10 20-pound tarpon as opposed to catching a 200-pound fish. What makes baby tarpon (30 pounds or less) so attractive, is their jumping ability. When hooked, these fish spend as much time in the air as they do in the water.
To find baby tarpon in Tampa Bay, look around the bridges at night, residential canals, power plants outflows, and rivers that feed the bay. In Charlotte Harbor, concentrate on the bridges over both the Myakka and Peace rivers along with the canals of Punta Gorda. St. Joseph's Sound doesn't hold as many fish as other locations, but you can still find enough tarpon in the rivers and canals to make it interesting.
For those who use conventional tackle, 8- to 12-pound test equipment is perfect, except around the bridges use 15. If you prefer fly fishing, a 7- to 9-weight outfit is all you'll need. The Zara Spook Puppy along with 7M and 44MR series MirrOlures are good choices for top water baits. For sub-surface baits, it's hard to beat a 4M MirrOlure, a D.O.A. TerrorEyz, or a 12 FATHOM SLAM'R. The SLAM'R is especially effective in the shadow lines of bridges at night. Tie these patterns on a No. 1 or smaller hook and make sure they're fuzzy _ baby tarpon love flies that breathe in the water.
_ Bob Puccinelli charters the Shadow out of Largo.