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Image by Keith Misner

the hunter's lane:
offshore saltwater fishing
florida tarpon fishing
this spring


Tarpon fishing in Florida is hands down one of the most exhilarating experiences you’ll ever have in your angling career. The Tarpon population of the Sunshine State is impressive not just because of the number of fish, but also because of the sizes they reach. Also known as the “Silver King,” this species is well known for its acrobatics on the end of a line. They’re capable of jumping up to ten feet out of the water while rattling their gills like an angry diamondback snake. Tarpon’s preferred water temperature is in the 74–88ºF range. This is why they’re so numerous in Florida, the mild weather serves them perfectly. Read on to find out more about where and how to catch your trophy Tarpon.


The Hunter's Lane is here to support your success with this brief guide

Offshore Saltwater Fishing [Experience Florida Tarpon Fishing This Spring].


How To Go About Fishing For Tarpon: 

Now that you know where to go, it’s time to take a closer look at the best ways to entice and hook a Tarpon. If you’re coming down for the first time, it’s recommended to head out with an experienced charter captain, who can show you the ropes. 


Using Natural Bait: 

With natural bait, you’ll get the best results during the ebb tide. Position yourself up-current and let your bait drift towards the fish. Double the end of your line at about 6 foot with a Bimini Twist and attach about 8′ of 100 lb mono with a swivel. Don’t forget to use sharp hooks to get through the fish’s bony mouth! That mouth is the reason why most fishermen land only about 1 in 5 takes. Shrimp work very well as live bait. Hook a large shrimp under its horn on the head or thread it and freeline it. Avoid using floats because they make it difficult for the shrimp to swim naturally. Chumming with small, cut-up pieces helps. Your hook size should be 2/0–4/0. Crabs can be used instead of shrimp. Remove their claws and hook them bottom-up. Cast towards your target fish and let the bait slowly sink in front of it.​ Fish like pilchards, mullet and pinfish work great as live bait. Hook in the bait fish behind the anal fin or in front of the dorsal fin to ensure they stay alive for as long as possible. If you’re anchored, hook the bait fish on the top lip and behind the head. Use a 6/0–10/0 hook depending on fish size with a large float 6–8 foot above the bait. Live or dead fish can be used as bait on the flats, as well as large cut-up pieces of mullet. Just adjust the float to keep bait fish out of the grass. Cast often and in front of a single Tarpon. If you spot a pod, don’t scare them away by casting into the pod. Instead, cast nearby where they’ll notice but not get startled.


Use Real Bait: 

I am an artificial lure devotee, but shore fishing is one time I’ll make an exception. When fishing from shore you are primarily sitting still and waiting on fish to come to you. Casting and reeling artificials like you’re in a bass tournament is just not the right vibe. I’ve tried just about every kind of bait when shore fishing and fresh shrimp is hard to beat. Simply stop at a local seafood market and buy a half a pound of fresh shrimp. It stays on a hook better than frozen shrimp and you don’t have to fret about keeping it alive. If you’re beach savvy enough to spot sand fleas (a.k.a mole crabs) in the wet sand and can dig some up, by all means, sand fleas make excellent bait. But I can assure you, if a swarm of pompano or a school of slot reds comes by, they are not going to turn their nose up at fresh shrimp. Also, there is no need to always hurl it way out there “past the sandbar.” Fishing inside the first trough between the beach and the sandbar is perfect for these species.

















Artificial Lures: 

If you prefer using artificial lures, follow the same location, time, and tide guidelines as above. Work or troll your lure very slowly. Artificial lures are best used on flats. Use a lighter line and cast close enough to sighted fish for them to see your lure. Spinning lures and plugs should be retrieved slowly, letting the lure sink, then intermittently pulling the rod tip and reeling in the slack. The lures that have proven to be effective include Gator spoons (3 ounces), Mirrolure 65M or 77M in colors 18 or 21, Rapala Magnum (in natural colors, for trolling), as well as red, black, or green plastic worms (Texas Rigged), worked close to the bottom. When fishing canals and rivers are connected to saltwater, use small Rapalas, Rebels, and round-headed Crappie Jigs about 1/8 ounces. Make sure that if you are fishing with jigs or other artificial lures, the lure is not weighted so it hangs below the hook when the line or leader is held vertically.

Landing A Tarpon: 

Once you’ve solidly hooked a Tarpon, expect lots of high jumps, somersaults, and gill-rattling. As your fish is about to leap, “bow” (lower) your rod tip and push it towards the fish to give the line some slack. There is no holding a large Tarpon and no “horsing” it in, either. The drag on your reel will need help. Press the line against your rod with your fingers and create additional resistance for the pulling fish. You’ll know when your Tarpon gets tired because it usually rolls on its side. Use a short lip gaff and pass it through the fish’s lower lip. The fish should be held while someone removes the hook or clips the leader as close to it as possible. Be very careful with your Tarpon! They’re large (and gentle, despite the size), so lifting them by the lip gaff can injure them severely. It’s not recommended to get them out of the water, but rather remove the hook without getting the Tarpon into the boat. After a fight, the fish often needs reviving. Hold it upright in the water, moving it back and forth to enhance water circulation through its gills. Nearly all Tarpon are released, so some fishermen remove or flatten the hook barb to make the release less traumatic. While doing so will make the removal easier, you’ll lose more fish.

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