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We Couldn’t stop at just flies. now carrying everything but the fish!

Tarpon

Savage, other worldly, meniacing, vicious, tiring.  This is what its like when you get the opportunity to hook and land a Tarpon on the fly.  This is a World Class Premier Game Fish.  With its combonation of fighting ability stamina, strength, and prey drive, you can't explain what catching one is like until you do it for yourself.

The good news is if you are in a tarpon fishery there is usually a lot of them.  They aren't a target of commercial fisherman so catch and release is practiced pretty much across the board.  Tarpons belong to the genus Mega lops, there are two specias. One is indigenous to the Atlantic one to the indo-pacific.  The southeastern sea board of the Atlantic Coast through Central and South America and the Caribbean is prime time action.  The other meca for chasing these giants is African inlets, bays, river mouths, and brackish waters along the coast of Senegal and South Angola.

They are highly adabtable to salt and oxygen deprived enviornments assisted by swim bladders through which they can breathe air.  As they make thier way across the edge of a flat or through a mangrove you may see them rolling up for a sip of air.  Typically most Tarpon you see will weigh in around 75lbs to 85 pounds but giants can exceed 250+ on any given fight.  The fish take almost 10 years to reach breeding age and can live 50 years or more.  They prefer warm, shallow, darky, and sandy mud bottoms and will stick to cover when able.  As they grow larger and transition from juvenile stage fish into adulthood they will typically starting moving out of the back channels and into the open ocean waters.

Your pursuit of landing one of these lunkers usually is classified in one of the following ways.

Tarpon that are Laid Up

Small, mid-size or large Tarpon that like backwater mangroves, canals, brackish lakes, lagoons or the flats.  They are really just hanging out.  They may or may not leave, and are almost ready to move out and reproduce, migrate, etc., they just haven't done so yet.    

Baby Tarpon

Small juvenile fish that is incredibly fun to catch.  They are in the safety of the mangroves and the flats to avoid large predators.  Many believe that Baby Tarpon remain in safer back waters until they are about 5-8 years old, but no one has proven this.  They are voracious eaters and highly sought after by anglers.  If you are just getting started with Tarpon fishing on a fly, this might be the way to go.  

Resident Tarpon

Mid-size to large fish which essentially don't migrate or haven't yet.  They stay in one area where food is plentiful (filleting tables on a dock, under bridges or near a waterfront restaurant).  Most agree that they will eventually leave possibly to reproduce and become migrators, resume migration but it's hard to say for sure.  There are 60 lb. Tarpons by the Marina near Government Cut in Miami every day and most times when someone is trying to catch one, they get spooled, tangled and cut off in about 5 minutes.

 

 

Migrating Tarpon

This is what we dream about.  A school of Tarpon 20-30 strong each weighing about 130 lbs. swimming across the flats.  It's a fly anglers dream!  These are the large adults that have been in deeper waters reproducing and are traveling in search of warmer waters and a new source of food.  They're hungry, aggressive and will destroy your rod and reel in no time if you let them.   The Migration in the spring brings Tarpon from the warm deep waters in the southern hemisphere to the southern Florida, Florida Keys, the Eastern side of Central America, Gulf of Mexico and West Indies.  No one knows really where Tarpon breed, some think they migrate from the deeper waters into the flats in spring.  Others believe the opposite and think that the breeding occurs in the deep waters of the south Atlantic Ocean somewhere between Africa and South America.  Some pretty big females show up near Belize and northern Mexico in late summer which makes the local guides think that this is the Tarpon breeding place. The general consensus is that no one really knows for sure.     They prefer warm weather so it only makes sense that after they breed in the late spring or early summer they move north.  The winter season (cold season) begins in the southern hemisphere around May, so the Tarpon migrate following the warm weather beginning a new summer season in places like Key West, Miami, Mexico, Belize and Costa Rica.  The logical answer is that they are just following the food; if something becomes active or moves, so do the Tarpon.   Aside from the hemispheric migration there are some other special events that Tarpon fishers look forward every year.  The Paolo Worm hatch in the Florida Keys, the Shrimp Run in December in Miami, what some call the Spawn in the Gulf of Mexico-Caribbean side of Central America in August and September, which is probably the end of the spring migration north. In the Southern Hemisphere the Migration begins in November and lasts through March or April.   Depending on what type of Tarpon you are fishing for and where you are fishing will determine the rod, line, leader and fly you use.  The general thought is 7-8 wt. for smaller Tarpon and 10-14 wt. rods for the larger fish.  We like a 12 wt. for Tarpon in the Florida Keys and Miami/Biscayne Bay and an 8-14 wt. for Thousand Islands and west coast of Florida.  The current record is held by Jim Holland Jr. from Chassahowitzka, Florida, who caught a 202 lb. monster with 20 lb. tippet.     Costa Rican guides laugh if we try to use anything less than a 12 wt. and they're not just messing with us, we've seen some big Tarpon rolling around there too.  There was some record Tarpon that were caught near there as well.  There is a 3 way tie for a local record all weighing 283 pounds caught on Sherbo Island (Costa Rica), Sierra Leone and Lake Maracaibo (Venezuela).  Big fish but not caught on a fly.   


Tip 1: BE PREPARED! When you have a monster fish cruising the edge and you have to make that awesome line zinging cast the, the last thing you need is to have your line tangled, your fly caught, or your the right rod stuck under a boat bag.

Tip 2:  Take a second, breath, and figure out what the tarpon is doing and which way he is doing it in.

Tip 3:  Having a strong relationship with your guide starts at the dock.  When its time to tyr and catch a silver king you should have faith and let him get you in to position to cast.

Tip 4:  Always allow your guide to help you zero in on your target during your false casting, especially if you lose sight of the fish.

Tip 5:  Dirty water is your best friend when it comes to landing your fly.   The clearer the water the further you need to lead.

Tip 6:  Determine the direction and speed of the current (tide). A strong current may call for leading a tarpon 10′ or more, while a slow current could be as little as 5-6′.

Tip 7:  Wind....you aren't casting to the big guy on your lawn.  If it's blowing don't forget you are going to have to compensate.

Tip 8:  Never, never, never cast over a fish.  There is nothing out in the middle of the ocean, every shadow get noticed by these fish.

Tip 9:  Calm flat water calls for fly placement farther away from the tarpon. Choppy water conditions you can get away with placing your fly closer to the fish.

Tip 10:  Leave some room on your leader to pull the fly through the strike zone and always make sure that is away from the fish.  When was the last time you saw a mouse run towards a cat.

Gink and Gasoline recently published an article with the following tips.  We broke it down a littl bit more.