It is Prime Time Tarpon Time here in the Keys and everybody is seeing silver! Tarpon season started early this year due to warmer water temperatures and it is still going strong.
As you read this article I am almost certain that most of the articles in this months issue of Fishmonster Magazine will mostly cover tarpon. Because of this I will get to the tarpon talk a little later but for now lets talk flats slam (bonefish, permit, tarpon).
May/June are prime months to catch a flats slam, with tarpon so available, the areas we target bonefish and permit are just a stones throw away, and some days are even the same general spots. Now I love me a good fly fisherman but I will typically have a live well full of shrimp and crabs ready for those sight fishing bait slingers out there all month long.
Bonefish and permit fishing depends greatly on the tides, certain flats are only good during specific stages of the tide and time of day does come into play. I also find that adaptation is key to success. Not every day is going to have Chamber of Commerce weather, and some days the conditions make sight fishing nearly impossible. However if you are willing to, what I call “turn to the dark side”, and pick up a spin rod you can still be successful even with no visibility. But ultimately it is your choice.
I typically fish baits for bonefish and permit with Owner Mutu Light circle hooks sizes 1/0-3/0 depending on the size of the bait I am using. My line is 8-15lb braided depending on the type of flat I am fishing, for the past few years I have really become a fan of yellow braided line. I find that I and my clients can see it better, typically when fishing 2 or more anglers I will have one fishing a green line and the other yellow. This really helps when line become tangled and I have not seen a difference in the yellow line vs. the green when it comes to spooking fish.
Now lets talk some TARPON! Almost every year I get at least one or two customers that want me to guarantee them a tarpon. Otherwise they will keep calling around until they do find a captain that will guarantee them a fish. For this I first tell them that there are no guarantees in fishing. Then explain, in order to give them the very best chance of catching a tarpon that we need to go at night, tarpon feed mostly at night. This type of fishing is mostly done with live baits like mullet and crabs although fly fishing is possible, most choose to fly fish during the day. The problem is the time of night we go. As most guides I like to fish certain areas during certain stages of the tide coupled with the moon phase and wind direction. I prefer to set these trips up weeks in advance when I know the best times and tides to fish. However, you often get calls for trips at the last minute so . . .
I remember one client who I told to meet me at the dock at 3, he asked pm, to which I responded am. After reminding me that he was on vacation and had never gotten up so early in his life, I reminded him that he wanted a guarantee, he agreed. We fished until 7am, landed 3 tarpon up to 120lbs and lost 3 more. An excellent trip! The next year the same client returned ready to head out at 3am again however it was a different week in June and the tides dictated that we fish 7-11pm with live mullet. Day or night the bite changes daily, adaptation is key to being a successful tarpon fisherman. Tarpon Fever is here; catch it!
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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