Tarpon are beginning to move up the coast as usual this time of year. The numbers in the north Pinellas region are getting better but not quite as strong as they will be in the next few weeks. South Tampa Bay has seen lots of tarpon around the Skyway bridge and nearby passes.
More fish will continue to migrate north towards Clearwater Pass and on up to Honeymoon Island where we are already seeing a few schools pass through. Live crabs are always a favorite bait but don’t overlook pinfish and grunts. Once tarpon swim through the passes and onto the flats, these two grass dwelling baits are easy targets for tarpon. Even when out off the beaches, in more open waters, they are likely to eat them. Staging up in their travel lanes is the best way to hook fish when on the outside. Of course, chasing schools is effective as well, but multiple boats can spook them and shut them down. I will often bring threadfin herring to cut up and chum behind the boat where I am sitting, waiting for Tarpon to pass through.
Often times we will hook fish we don’t see as they swim below the surface and forage on cut pieces of bait along the bottom. In very clear water I will use 50 pound leader and a smaller 4/0 circle hook. If fishing deeper waters that aren’t as clear, I will go up to 60lb or 80lb fluorocarbon leader and 6/0 circle hook. Getting them boatside for a quick picture is exciting, but please handle them carefully and release as quick as possible. The “silver kings” deserve to be released healthy after giving us a great fight.