Wheeeeeeeeeee… the tarpon bite has begun!! Like I’ve said before, when you are looking to target these elite battle hardened veterans you’ve really got to have your stuff together. Trying to skimp on your gear is a very poor choice. You need good quality gear to even think about fishing for tarpon. There are many different manufacturers to choose from when selecting a set up for tarpon. I won’t sit here and tell you that this reel and that reel are the best and those reels are garbage. What I will tell you is what I’ve personally tried and tested and what will work for you. My set up is Penn Spinfisher V 6500 and I’ve mounted that bullet proof reel to an 8’ Penn Battalion fast action rod with 20-40 pound line rated capacity. I also have spooled that Spinfisher with 50lb Power Pro braid. Remember, when using braided lines, fluorocarbon is a must! I would suggest starting with 50lb fluorocarbon and work up or down from there. Next I’ll use a good quality 4x 6-7/0 circle hook and I’ll attach that with a loop knot. Now for a bit of tarpon fishing etiquette, and this is something you really should heed. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to run up on some fellow anglers with your outboard when they’re quietly fishing with their trolling motors. When making an approach on a pod of fish or other anglers working a pod you want to stop well outside of where they are fishing. Kill that outboard and drop the trolling motor in and make your way over. You’re not ready to start slinging that bait just yet. Try to get a feel for what the pecking order is by loitering just outside of casting distance. This is your opportunity to observe what’s going on and what direction the fish are traveling. Try to position your boat so the fish will come to you. This way you are waiting your turn and not running over someone else’s fish. By doing this you’re asking permission and showing the other anglers a little courtesy. After that, you’re in the rotation and can work the fish as well.
Trout, as I’m sure you’ve heard by now, is off the table for a while along with snook and reds. It’s important that everyone can appreciate this closure. It will only improve the quality of fishing in our area for years to come. Luckily, there are still plenty of other fish that we see on a regular basis to take home for dinner. We have an amazing Spanish mackerel bite right now in the Harbor and on the beaches. These guys are excellent for the table. I smoke them and make a killer smoked fish dip. They are also great fried. The best way I’ve found to not only catch them but also keep your hook from getting cut off is to continue to reel at a medium-fast pace with a ¼ oz jig head or spoon, even when you get a bite, keep reeling. What happens is you’ve got 20 of those spanny macs following that bait and swatting at it and when you try to set the hook and miss, your jig inevitably slows down as you recover from your Bill Dance booyah maneuver and the other fish nail ya. Say bye-bye lure because you’ll get cut every time.
If you can get out to some of the nearshore reefs and natural bottom, they’re covered up with some really great fish as well. I’ve seen good numbers of permit on the nearshore reefs and they love crabs!! Natural bottom anywhere from 15 miles on out is holding 20-25” mangrove snapper. It’s been hard to get away from the lane snapper, they’re on just about every natural area we fish. You may have to push out 20+ miles before you consistently start catching keeper red grouper, but they’re out there. Also, keep an eye out for the birds, there’s been Spanish mackerel, bonita, jacks, kingfish, and even an occasional blackfin tuna chasing the bait schools.
So happy fishing from us here at Florida Inshore Xtream charters and remember if you’re ready to get out and see how we do it you can call us at 941- 698- 0323. Find us on Facebook, Instagram or our web page www.FloridaInshoreXtream.com. Well folks, you know the deal.., gotta get on out and get my FIX on! So, tight lines and y’all stay safe!!
Oh yeah, one last thing, keep your eyes open for sharks. They love to eat tarpon and they are out there!
Tight lines & y’all stay safe!!
Capt Jesse McDowall