Tarpon fishing in Florida is hands down one of the most exhilarating experiences you’ll ever have in your angling career. The Tarpon population of the Sunshine State is impressive not just because of the number of fish, but also because of the sizes they reach.
Also known as the “Silver King,” this species is well known for its acrobatics on the end of a line. They’re capable of jumping up to ten feet out of the water while rattling their gills like an angry diamondback snake. Tarpon’s preferred water temperature is in the 74–88ºF range. This is why they’re so numerous in Florida, the mild weather serves them perfectly. Read on to find out more about where and how to catch your trophy Tarpon.
How to Fish for Tarpon
Now that you know where to go, it’s time to take a closer look at the best ways to entice and hook a Tarpon. If you’re coming down for the first time, it’s recommended to head out with an experienced charter captain, who can show you the ropes. There are different ways to go about it, so let’s get started.
Natural and Live Bait
With natural bait, you’ll get the best results during the ebb tide. Position yourself up-current and let your bait drift towards the fish. Double the end of your line at about 6 foot with a Bimini Twist and attach about 8′ of 100 lb mono with a swivel. Don’t forget to use sharp hooks to get through the fish’s bony mouth! That mouth is the reason why most fishermen land only about 1 in 5 takes.
Shrimps work very well as live bait. Hook a large shrimp under its horn on the head or thread it and freeline it. Avoid using floats because they make it difficult for the shrimp to swim naturally. Chumming with small, cut-up pieces helps. Your hook size should be 2/0–4/0. Crabs can be used instead of shrimp. Remove their claws and hook them bottom-up. Cast towards your target fish and let the bait slowly sink in front of it.
Fish like pilchards, mullet, and pinfish work great as live bait. Hook in the bait fish behind the anal fin or in front of the dorsal fin to ensure they stay alive for as long as possible. If you’re anchored, hook the bait fish on the top lip and behind the head. Use a 6/0–10/0 hook depending on fish size with a large float 6–8 foot above the bait.
Live or dead fish can be used as bait on the flats, as well as large cut-up pieces of mullet. Just adjust the float to keep bait fish out of the grass. Cast often and in front of a single Tarpon. If you spot a pod, don’t scare them away by casting into the pod. Instead, cast nearby where they’ll notice but not get startled.