Catch and release
The sport of tarpon fishing has become increasingly popular with catch and release anglers and rightly so. Tarpon are magnificent creatures with the ability to jump many feet in the air and strip off line in explosive runs. Anglers travel all over the world to find the best tarpon fishing hot spots. From Africa to Costa Rica and north to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic coast of the United States fishing for tarpon is an ultimate challenge. Weather you fish for the very biggest near 300 pound giant tarpon or 20 pound baby tarpon the hook up and fight is pure adrenalin. Tarpon fishing with light tackle has only been perfected in the last 100 years. Now tarpon anglers have a great choice of lines, reels, rods and artificial baits to pursue this spectacular fish. Tarpon blast top water baits, chow on plastic, slurp up fly's and hammer live bait. From the bite to the fight tarpon fishing is number one on the inshore anglers must do list. We hope you share our admiration for this wonderful fish and take care to release your tarpon so others can enjoy it another day.
Not much is known about tarpon. Recent satellite tagging has shown that they often travel hundreds of miles from the tag site. These tags are expensive costing about $6000 per fish but scientists can track that fish all over the planet. One tarpon traveled 1100 miles in 96 days. Several tarpon have been tagged from our area of the Florida Keys. One of these tags was recovered near the Chesapeake Bay. From the tag information scientists know tarpon prefer water temperature of about 79 degrees and can swim down to near 500 feet deep. We can catch tarpon when the water temperature is as low as 68 degrees but they are definitely more active when the water is warmer. It has become evident that tarpon are a global resource. On a personal note I hope you and the generations to come have the opportunity to enjoy fishing for tarpon.
For more tarpon satellite tagging information please visit www.bonefishresearch.com
A fantastic tarpon released to fight again
The battle was an interminable one, with the oversized Megalops atlanticus pulling us first through the nearest bridge, then past it and through the next bridge! Then, despite my putting as much pressure on it as I possibly dared, it turned back and went through the second bridge again, and was once again headed for the first one! Each time we passed through those menacing pilings my heart sank, figuring that we were doomed to be cut off once again, even after such a protracted battle. Yet somehow, perhaps due to fatigue from its first run and the initial twenty minutes of the melee, or maybe simply from pure dumb luck, the fish didn't cut us off. Relentless to the end, the giant tarpon surfaced a half dozen times, yet not once did it jump. Each time I thought it was spent, but the beast had me fooled. Instead of submitting and floating belly up like I expected, it simply took in a huge gulp of air, gave me the fin, and then submerged again, defiantly taking another fifty yards of hard earned line back with it as it went.
A seeming eternity later, at five minutes after ten to be precise, the fish was finally spent. Swimming placidly beside the boat on its monofilament tether like a dog at heel, it was a sight to behold. Between six and a half feet and seven feet in length, it was a beauty. Myself gasping for air, I turned to Captain Alex and asked him “Wow, what does that thing weigh, one sixty?” “At least…” came his wide-eyed response. After a few hastily snapped photos, the last of which showed a huge splash as the tarpon pounded the surface with its tail as it was released, I was finally able to collapse.
I want to thank Captain Alex and the rest of you guys at TarponTrips for an incredible experience that, although somewhat stressful in the beginning, ended up being the fishing adventure of a lifetime. Especially, for a saltwater addict like myself. I look forward to seeing you guys again soon.
David E. Spletzer
Our trips are featured on In-Fisherman TV
See the In-Fisherman crew catch tarpon, goliath grouper and bull sharks at the Bahia Honda bridge in the Florida Keys. They fished our tarpon trip, mixed bag and shark trip to produce this film.
These web sites have tarpon fishing stories, pictures, tackle and tips.
http://www.in-fisherman.com/tv/ search tarpon fishing for lots of information and stories
This site has an underwater camera at the Bahia Honda Bridge http://www.teens4oceans.org/index.php/gallery/webcams/
A few lines from Shallow Water Angler
Feast Your Eyes
This is the glamorous tarpon fishing you see in the high-gloss coffee table books. Arguably the most visual and challenging...
When the water warms to the magic mid 70s, tarpon stream into the shallows on both the Gulf and Atlantic side of the Florida Keys and Miami's Biscayne Bay. Similar shallow-water game is had in other Florida locations such as the famed Homosassa flats, and to a lesser degree, over light-bottom, bayside shoals as far north as the Florida Panhandle. Wherever migrating tarpon schools venture over shallow bottom, they can be stalked and cast to with everything from specialized flies resembling shrimp, crabs or baitfish, to plugs and live baits.
Passes and Inlets
It's a bit like bottom fishing and a bit like bumper boats.
Classic pass tarpon fishing means Florida's Boca Grande, specifically the 70-foot hole south of the lighthouse. Here rugged inboard cruisers jostle for space with everything from flats skiffs to towering sportfishers. It's as much a boat show as a fishing hole, some days. Everyone's drifting and fishing baits or jigs near bottom on 50- to 80-pound tackle. Drags are screwed down tight, and a lot of boats sport fighting chairs.
May, June and July are the three prime months when mature tarpon, 70 to 200 pounds, stack up here. As water temps warm, the fish come for a seafood buffet of crabs and baitfish sucked seaward on strong outgoing tides. Apparently, spawning is another draw, says Aaron Adams, director of research for Bonefish & Tarpon Unlimited.
Not all pass fishing is a summertime affair. In winter, tarpon hole up in Government Cut, Miami, where near-tropical latitude keeps water temps close to the favored 70-plus-degree range. Here, live shrimp is the featured dish. Some nights big tarpon come right to the surface to pop shrimp...
Bridge Over Tarpon Waters
Catching tarpon at bridges can't be called a game of finesse; it's about certainties, patience and force.
The fish are either there or they're not, and you can see them plainly or mark them on your finder. They'll either eat or they won't eat, and you can't change that (even if you bring live mullet to entice them). When you do hook up, they can beat you to the bridge pilings where they can break you off. Your captain must have quick, cat-like reflexes to get your boat off anchor on the quick-release line so that you can follow the fight away from the bridges, out of the channels, onto the nearby flats, where you have a chance at a release. That is, if you can beat the tarpon before the bulls and hammerheads come and leave the fish that you love cut into two pieces.
It's either do or die, from start to finish.
But then, bridge fishing has its subtleties, as well. It takes patient waiting, sometimes for hours, for the change in current to start the bite before all hell breaks loose. It takes testing to find that depth where the finicky brutes will take a bait, before one will try to rip the rod from your arms, and your arms from your body. The bridge scene instills the camaraderie of teamwork among your crew. It offers the beauty of the sunrises, sunsets and moonlit nights in the spring and summer when the fishing turns on. And of course, it gives the singular experience of feeling the awesome power of a big tarpon firsthand, and at close range, so that you know forever what Megalops atlanticus really is.
Tarpon fishing charters at Bahia Honda State Park
I just returned to Michigan following 3 separate tarpon tides with the guys at TarponTrips and I am still aglow.
Thank you! Our group tried to do it on our own by renting a boat,tracking down bait, & competing with the array of tarpon boats. After all of our efforts (& stuck anchors), I looked up to see a big wide white V-hull appear from beneath the bridge & head toward us. "Now that's a tarpon boat" I whispered to myself only to realize it was Capt. Rick of TarponTrips. The next evening I would be on board that same vessel. I was amazed when within 5 seconds of the bait going into the water I was locked into a 110 lb silver king. That scenario would be repeated 7 times that evening. Right then I knew there was no other way to go. My arms, wrists, and legs are still sore from fighting really quality fish. But it is a good sore. Capt. Rick was an expert in maneuvering the boat around bridges & buoys to help me leader several beauties. It was an absolute pleasure to work & learn from true pros. See you next year!!! Dr. Mark Niebylski, Bloomfield, MIchigan
Tarpon and predators
Tarpon fishing as a sport needs good conservation and smart catch and release techniques. Currently the greatest threat to our tarpon fishery are sharks. Many tarpon are attacked by large sharks either during the fight or while resting after being released. I have seen 4 or 5 huge bull sharks vaporize a big tarpon and a single half ton great hammerhead shark rip a 150 pound tarpon to shreds. It is incredible to watch but a tragic loss of a great fish. If sharks are chasing your tarpon cut the line so it will have a chance to escape. Often tarpon will fight to their death. We enjoy the hook up and the jumps but feel there is no need to bring a tarpon to the boat if it means it will die.
The legend of mighty Mo
Mighty Mo was a fourteen foot great hammerhead shark who weighed near 1500 pounds. He was said to be king of the Bahia Honda bridge and no one disputed that fact. He would lurk in the shadow of your boat and devour your tarpon when it came near. He was cut and scared from encounters with props and angry boat ramming's. He was huge, he was impressive and even though we fished just a few hundred yards from the swimming beach none of the swimmers knew he was there. It was April when I saw Mo for the first time. I had heard about him for many years from the old time Captains in Marathon and Bahia Honda Park but always thought he was a tall tale. It was April and a light rain was falling. We had anchored up under the Bahia Honda bridge to stay dry. Our pinfish drifted back in the current and we had a good Jack bite going. A few tarpon rolled behind us and suddenly this huge shadow slid under the boat. As a 10 pound jack fought to the boat Mo slipped out for a quick snack and kept going. He easily spooled our 250 yards of 20 pound test. I bought a big rod, a 9/0 Penn Senator, some 100 pound test line, 250 pound cable and a big hook and came back to tangle with the legend. Using jacks for bait we caught bull sharks and goliath groupers and one smaller hammerhead but no Mo. Mighty Mo wasn't going to be fooled with heavy tackle and little bait. It was going to take something special to light him up. I carried the big shark rod with me on every trip. It was always ready to be deployed and finally the chance came. The tarpon were snapping and we were having a blast, it was a double hook up when the water exploded with Mo's monster head thrashing just behind an frantic airborne tarpon. We quickly cut the tarpon free and on the other line hauled a big jack to the boat and rigged it on the shark rod. It took just seconds for Mo to strike.. he was huge and dark with a massive wide head, the big Penn 9/0's drag howled. We started the engines and released the anchor as Mo steamed through the bridge and out to the Atlantic. We gave chase getting enough slack to get the rod out of the gunwale rod holder and into the fighting belt. Our first angler braced himself in the bow for a long battle. Half the line was off the spool, Mo was headed straight out into the Atlantic at a pretty good speed, we ran at about 8 knots to try to gain some line back. 30 minutes into the fight we changed anglers. Another 20 minutes and we were now on the edge of the reef in about 80 feet of water. We were 6 miles off shore when he turned and ran the reef edge. From here to the south it's open ocean with a thousand feet of water not far away. Mo slowed in about 100 feet of water and we got directly over him to start putting the pressure on. He didn't move. Did he get in a hole? Was he hung up on the reef, an old anchor rope or a trap line? We pulled and gained a little line, we kept pulling dead weight and gained more line and then slowly and smoothly the big fish swam out into the open ocean. He steadily swam deeper taking more line. One more trick, we ran ahead of him and pulled him with the boat. He began to plane to the surface. We backed down and gained line, he slowly sank, we pulled him again, this time he surfaced and we backed down to within 30 feet of the monster fish. There he was the legendary great hammerhead shark. We had beat him. Cameras clicked, we cut the cable and Mo slipped back into the shadow of our boat.
This huge fish is one of the big attractions of our monster slam mixed bag trip. This fish will often eat your snapper or grouper and just lay on the bottom and not move. Reaching an incredible 800 pounds goliath grouper are protected in Florida and thriving in our tropical waters. !00 pound fish are common, we have seen some 500 pounders and battled many other really big fish. The trick is to move the grouper away from its hole and get directly over the fish during the fight. Lots of power and 100 pound test will get the job done.
Tides and tarpon fishing
It is very important that you watch the tides in your area. You will want to time your trips to coincide with the tide changes. We like an outgoing tide but most tides of medium speed can be fished productively. Very strong tides are hard to fish due to the speed of the current. You can fish on a tide change to help reduce the current speed.
This link will give you tide times, height and speed at almost anywhere in the United States