June, It’s a Backcountry Thing!
June marks the beginning of the summer. Hot days and occasional showers will make for challenging conditions on the water. During this month, tarpon will be my main objective for a lion’s share of the charters I do for both day and evening trips - and why not? Tarpon are a thrill to catch and fight on all sorts of fishing tackle.
In June, tarpon can be found moving north and south all along the ocean side from Key West to Key Largo. On those days when conditions are right, my clients will have several shots at them either throwing flies or slinging baits like crabs or mullet. There will be days where the fish can be picky or just plain difficult. By this I mean perfect shots with refusal after refusal after refusal. It can be very aggravating to say the least. However, it is the one that eats that makes everything totally worth it. Thankfully, there are several options available to spin and fly anglers in the backcountry of Florida Bay for those days when the fish have lockjaw.
It has been my experience that tarpon eat better in the backcountry. The draw back is that you usually see less fish than on the ocean side. The bay can also be a great place to hide during those fowl weather days or holiday weekends with lots of shallow banks and islands to choose from. It is a very rare thing to go into the backcountry and not have shots at other species like permit, redfish, snook, etc. When we are fishing with baits for tarpon it is quite common to catch sharks; mostly lemons, blacktips and bulls. But it is rare that we actually land a shark unless we are purposely targeting them with wire rigs. Most of the time the rods I use for tarpon have 30lb braided Power Pro line to 80-150lb-fluorocarbon leader then a 7/0-10/0-size Owner Octopus circle hook. The hook size depends on the size of the bait and the leader the clarity of the water, the murkier the water the stronger the leader. The flies I use in the backcountry tend to be much darker colored than what I throw on the ocean side - colors like black, purple, and maroon. This also holds true for the flies I throw at redfish, snook and seatrout. In murkier waters the silhouette of a darker fly stands out better than a lighter colored one allowing the fish to find the fly easier.
Tides can play a critical role when fishing the backcountry for tarpon. Sometimes certain spots may only be good for a short period of time. I usually prepare my clients before poling into spots so they’ll know what to expect. For example one of the local small tarpon holes is located on a shoreline with a deep pocket where the fish like to hang out during the day. After hooking a fish, the main school of tarpon will leave the pocket and begin to swim down the shoreline. We will sit there for 5-10 minutes then the school will return to the pocket and begin to roll and be happy. If we chase the fish moving out of the pocket they will not eat anything we throw at them nor will they return to the pocket, which basically ruins the spot.
The backcountry is no place for an inexperienced boater. I highly suggest hiring a local guide to help introduce you to the waters of the backcountry. Just head down to your local marina or bait and tackle store for a guide recommendation.
For those of you who know me, know that to me, fishing is more than just a game, it is a way of life. So fish hard and fish often!
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