For anglers, the Tarpon is one of the most exciting kinds of fish to go after. Because Wakulla County is one of the best places to find them, we have put together some tips from local Tarpon fisherman, Bernie Sloan.
If you haven’t seen our previous blog on why Wakulla County is the best place for Tarpon fishing, be sure to check it out first.
Bait Fishing vs Fly Fishing
Basically, there are two types of Tarpon fishermen, i.e., the fly fisherman and the bait fisherman. Fly fishing has several advantages. One advantage is that the fly fisherman doesn’t have to deal with catching and handling bait—a sometimes messy and time-consuming activity.
All the fly fisherman has to do is cast his specially designed fly just in front of and a bit above the Tarpon’s nose, and most often even the most lethargic Tarpon can’t resist this morsel. But this is easier said than done, because fly fishing for Tarpon requires great skill with a fly rod, and the fly fisherman must be constantly ready to make his cast. Sometime this means waiting for hours for that one opportunity to place the fly in front of a passing Tarpon.
The advantage for bait fishing is that almost anyone can do it. A very basic way to bait fish is to start with a medium heavy rod with a reel that will hold at least 150 yards of 40 pound monofilament line.
This line should be fastened to a 80 to 100 pound monofilament leader about 5 feet long. An important part of this rig is the 8/0 or 9/0 circle hook. The circle hook became known to fishermen a decade or so ago, and Tarpon fishermen were among the first users. This hook dramatically improved the catch rate for Tarpon. It is important that the circle hook be tied with a loop knot.
A hungry Tarpon will bite almost anything. Bait fishermen use either live bait under a float or dead bait on the bottom. For live bait, 5 or 6 inch Pinfish or a Gulf Menhaden are excellent.
What to Do When You’re There
Once you have located a place where Tarpon are likely to be, or better yet, you have seen Tarpon near your boat, simply float your bait out about 30 or 40 yards, place the rod in a rod holder and wait. At the same time, you can put dead bait (Mullet or Menhaden) on the bottom as far as you can cast them from the boat. No special weights, etc., are needed, just the dead bait on a hook.
When the Tarpon bites, you will know. Hang on, and try not to panic.
It is best to use a guide when you are either fishing in a new area or for an unfamiliar species. You can be successful fishing for Tarpon by using some of the techniques mentioned above, but it will probably take you more time and your chances for success are not as great as they would be with a guide, and local guides are easy to find in Wakulla County.
At the end of the day, Wakulla County waters have plenty of Tarpon ready to be caught, so it might be best to make a weekend trip out of it and take your time enjoying what the area has to offer. Be sure to download our visitor’s guide and keep an eye out for more great events coming.