When it comes to fishing, the location, the targets, and the bait, are three of the most important key elements. For tarpon fishermen, the use of live bait is the key to a successful catch. Areas from the keys and up the west coast of Florida have tarpon migrating, feeding, and spawning in the summer months with the most abundant concentration being Charlotte Harbor- Boca Grande. Tarpon come in all sizes, from twenty points to over two hundred pounds in some cases.
Tarpon in these areas prefer to feed on mullet, crab, threadfins, pinfish and shrimp. Using live bait is the simplest, most effective way to hook a tarpon. When fishing the beaches, a trolling motor is imperative; maneuver your boat ahead of the tarpon and let it swim to you, all while remaining as quiet as possible. Cast your bait ahead of the tarpon and let it slowly sink. Remember, if you notice another angler working on that pod, be considerate and don’t interfere. You can work your way up and down the coast to find another pod. Usually in water that’s about 6-12feet deep you’ll find several fish schools along the coast.
In late summer and early fall, mullet and threadfins are my choices for live bait. Don’t forget to take a dead mullet and soak it on the bottom while live bait fishing (always cover your water column). Anchoring works well during this time of year as well.
Hook size ranges from 5/0 to 7/0 depending on bait, and circle vs j hook depends on individual preference.
There is no greater thrill thin working a pod of tarpon to see the fish eat your bait and skyrocket out of the water while shaking his head. The next best thing is realizing that he is still on your line after returning to the water.