Written by: Captain Jim Klopfer
Sarasota offers visiting anglers several different fishing opportunities. They can fish the inshore flats for action and variety, target snook in the backwaters, or go offshore for grouper and snapper. However, those seeking the ultimate challenge will try their hand at tarpon fishing. These fish average 75-pounds and tarpon up to 200-pounds are hooked each season. This is truly big-game fishing!
This type of fishing is unique. There are plenty of places in the world where anglers can catch fish that weigh over one hundred pounds, however, there are very few opportunities to sight cast to fish that large using relatively light spinning tackle.
Tarpon are a beautiful fish that put up a spectacular fight, earning them the name “Silver King”.
Sarasota Tarpon Fishing Seasons
Tarpon show up off of the Sarasota beaches in early May. These are mature fish that migrate up from the Florida Keys as part of their annual spawning migration. Early in the season, tarpon are found in schools, known as “pods”. These schools can have a dozen fish, or two hundred fish.
By late July, most of these schools have spawned and the pods have broken up. Fish can still be caught out on the beaches, though they do not show as often. Single fish and pairs of fish are more commonly encountered. By August, most of the tarpon have moved on.
Tarpon Fishing Tactics and Techniques
Tarpon fishing is as much hunting as it is fishing. Before a fish can be hooked, it must be found. Fortunately, tarpon have several behaviors which aid in this. They form up in schools and often swim up on the surface. They can be seen milling about, called “daisy chaining” as they swim in circles on the surface. They also are found moving in large schools.
Dawn is the prime time to find one of these schools milling on the surface. The water will be quiet and the fish begin moving at first light. It is important for anglers to be quiet and patient. As the sun climbs high in the sky, fish can be seen in the water, even if they do not show on the surface.
Boat positioning is key to making a good presentation. Anglers need to anticipate the movement of the school and then position the boat in front of them. Once in position, anglers cast live baits in front of them. Small crabs and hand-sized baitfish are the top live baits. Hopefully, a bite ensues.
Once hooked, most tarpon leap high out of the water several times.
Tarpon Fishing: Fighting a Giant Tarpon
The sight of a 150-pound fish leaping six feet out of the water, shaking its head angrily is awe inspiring! This often times happens close to the boat, which allows many tarpon to throw the hook on the initial jump. This is called “jumping a tarpon” and is almost as much fun as catching one. The stalk, the bite, and the jump are very exciting.
Once hooked, the best technique is to give the fish slack line when it jumps. This reduces the chance of it becoming unhooked. The tarpon will make long runs and more jumps. The angler should put as much pressure as possible on the fish during the fight so that the tarpon can be released unharmed. It is not fair to fight one for more than an hour or so. Also, it is against the law to lift the fish out of the water.
Anglers need to take a few minutes to revive the fish before it is released.
In conclusion, anglers contemplating a Sarasota fishing charter may choose to try for mighty tarpon. It is challenging, but the reward is the fish of a lifetime!
This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert
Become an ANGLR Expert and apply here.