As the weather continues to warm over the coming months, our waters around Sanibel begin to change. We look forward to calmer mornings, clearer water (most of the time), and influxes of bait. Around this same time, larger migratory fish like sharks, king mackerel, false albacore, and the most sought after of them all, the silver king, make their way into our shared waters.
I always try to explain tarpon fishing to my non-angling friends, but if it’s something you’ve never done, then the concept can be hard to grasp. Sure, it’s using a rod and reel to capture a species just like any other type of fishing, but there is something about these fish that grabs at you. Maybe it’s the tranquility of stalking them on a flat calm morning, waiting for that glimpse of silver that indicates a school rolling through. It may be the thrill of enticing a bite, and the first sight of a 100lb missile flying clear of the water or it might just be the knowledge that if your arms do make it through the 45+ minute fight, you’ll have one heck of a fish tale. Whatever it is, there is nothing quite like tarpon fishing – and it can easily become an addiction.
Fishing for tarpon can be a tricky feat. These fish will test your tackle, and although you may hook them on light or medium-light inshore setups, you won’t land them unless you’ve got the right gear. I use heavy spinning rods spooled with 30lb braided line, 50-80lb leader (depending on water clarity and fish size), and 6/0 (live bait) or 9/0 (cut bait) hooks. Tarpon can be a finicky fish, so I always recommend having a variety of baits on hand unless you know what they’ve been feeding on recently. Some of our go-to choices here are live threadfins, mullet, pinfish, and palm-sized crabs. Tarpon will also readily eat cut-baits if presented correctly in the right areas – mullet and catfish tails are two of the more popular choices for cut baiting.
Tarpon are migratory fish with the season typically starting in mid-April and running through the fall. The first decent groups of tarpon showed up a bit early this year with good numbers being reported in the first week of April. As the conditions continue to warm and the wind dies down, we should see even more improvements in the fishing and more chances to have one hell of a fishing story.