Florida Fishing Report: Florida Fishing Charters

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Post Season Tarpon Fire Up

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1st. mate Brian Timmons prepares a giant tarpon for release. 

A combination of a pesky touch of red tide and last weeks dark moon sent a good push of tarpon inside Tampa Bay. While the beaches will hold a few fish moving and feeding in spurts, most consistent action now is now being found in several of the classic “post season” spots well inside the backcountry.

Tarpon fishing never has been for everyone. When the bite is on, it can be some of the most fast and furious big game fishing in the world. When tarpon are being tarpon, the fishing becomes something similar to a big game safari hunt. In the spring and prior to the spawn, often the fish are caught up in foreplay and can frustrate anglers in refusing pizzas in exchange for grapes. Post spawn the fish are the move to indulge in their purpose of taken up residence---to feast.

They move with the bait on near daily basis. Here one day only to found several miles away the next. Find the bait in known tarpon spas—likely you found the fish. Spring fish that would pass up offerings ranging from everything to the kitchen sink are often found blasting and free jumping in an array of neon silver through the potpourri of bait. Small glass minnows, sardines, herring and menhaden are the main ingredients of the food source. The trick now is to get a fish to bite your offering as they gulp mouthfuls of the tasty morsels.

Larger live bait offered just outside the bait pods often works in getting a bite when the bait is not over abundant. When the bait is very thick, live baits only last seconds as they a sucked up by every other species whom have too joined the party.

Dave Garrow (aft) with another release
aboard the Bounty Hunter.

(Fore to aft) Liz Overstreet, Brian, and Michael Overstreet are all smiles after landing this hot fish on ultra light tackle.

Out comes the hardware. Lures (jigs and plugs) constantly and somewhat accurately casted at and near rolling fish cover more ground as well as narrow the intended target, 100 lbs or more of pure fury. To some the technique of constantly casting seems like to work. For others who want to test their mettle against the king using bass tackle and plastic, the opportunity is the most rewarding experience in big game fishing.

When summer tarpon are found inhabiting the many areas of hard/live bottom inside the Bay, plugging takes a back seat to fresh dead bait fishing. Pros and seasoned tournament anglers know---its not the prettiest of techniques—but often the best The routine involves some preparation. The day before fishing is spent cast netting and acquiring the tarpon filet mignon, menhaden. Once the full cooler full of iced layered baits, 90% of the work is done. The following day is spent anchored on a piece of prime real estate and the baits are fan casted around the boat in a pre-scouted piece of prime real estate. Its complete chaos if a feeding pod moves in and all six rods double over at near the same moment. If just a fish or two around, the fishing may not be hot, but precisely effective. As in all tarpon fishing, if they are not feeding, it can be a long wait for a single bite.

Several major bridges crisscross Tampa Bay. Naturally the structures holds bait and create good currents complete with rips and eddies. They are some of the best known and productive tarpon hangouts on the coast. By day- the fishing is best around the major moon phases as the fish use the currents, pilings and shadow lines as ambush points for helpless baitfish being sucked by the lunar- gravitational pull. At night, the lights of the big bridges act like tarpon magnets just as porch lights do to insects in summer. The fish use the currents and the bridge shadows to stalk the pilings in search of an easy meal. Fish can be seen cruising just inches under the surface and often you can witness your bait being blasted just inches from your feet. Much has changed with the bridges over the years. New ones have been added, lighting schemes changed and angling/exposure pressure in this modern era have changed the fishing from yesteryear. Like all tarpon fishing, when it’s on—the big bridges of Tampa Bay are second to none for “post season” tarpon.
Phyllis Marlar took this, her first tarpon, on a a recent trip with husband Randy.

This past week, fish have consistently held in the same area and have been easy targets on plugs. We are still jumping and catching fish exceeding 140 lbs., particularly on plugs. Patches of red tide has pushed the fish off the lower Pinellas beaches. Off Sarasota and inside Tampa Bay the microorganism has not played any bearing on the fish other than to push them to these areas.

Screaming Drags and Tired Arms!

Robert McCue


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Last Update 7JUL03
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