Dawn of the Tarpon

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This has been one screwy tarpon season this year.  We had summer like weather in April, hot and humid, then a cold front which dumped over five inches of rain on Key West followed by a tropical system that didn’t do much but move the fish off.  The only consistency we have seen in the weather so far is its inconsistency - which has made for some tough fishing.  Hopefully, now that we are getting into summer the weather will stabilize.  It would be nice to have a few calm sunny days in a row with some solid fishing. June is my favorite time of the year to be fishing the flats.  The tarpon migration is still going strong all month, permit return from their spawn offshore and bonefishing is excellent.  All the seasonal guides and snowbirds have traveled back up north for the summer, so there are far fewer boats around.  Add in some awesome weather and the different ‘hatches’ that occur on the water and we’re in for some spectacular fishing. Bartlett2A flat calm early morning is my favorite time of the day.  There is a short period of time in the morning from first light to just as the sun breaks over the horizon where everything seems dead still and quiet, especially when the wind is not blowing.  It is a very peaceful part of the day, that I wish lasted much longer. Shortly after the world begins to stir, the various sea birds start to squawk and fly around to their hunting grounds. Dolphins move about looking for an early meal.  This really is an incredible time to be on the water and some of the best fishing of the day occurs now. With the flat calm, hot conditions we can see tarpon roll from a long way off.  It’s also much easier to find the birds working over bait schools.  Good grass lines will form where the different currents meet providing shelter for baitfish.  When all these variables meet up in one location, it is the easiest tarpon fishing ever. Anglers need not be deadly accurate with their casts, they only need to get their fly or bait in the vicinity. BartlettThis is one of the very few times tarpon will go out of their way to eat something.   They are feeding and the window of opportunity is small, so being close is ok, they will come and get it. Not only is the flat calm morning a great time to be tarpon fishing, it allows us to use some tactics that might otherwise be less efficient especially with windy conditions.  I’m talking about using top water lures and flies.  Because tarpon are laying just below the surface of the water and feeding heavily, a top water presentation is deadly and spectacular.  Tarpon will blast a top water lure or fly, sometimes launching themselves to get it.  Of course with the aggressive strikes you will miss a few tarpon, but that eat is worth it everytime. When I’m at the dock getting ready early in the morning while it is still dark, sweating and getting bit by no-see-ums; I know it’s going to be a good morning of tarpon fishing.   There is no air moving and the fish will be high in the water column, slow rolling and very happy.  My anglers can’t get to the marina quick enough and I pray they haven’t overslept. We wouldn’t want to miss out on this magical time of day.


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