Big Tarpon and Honeymoon Island, a Treat for the Whole Family By Capt. Joe Londot

Start spreading the news, Honeymoon Island beaches are back and better than ever, and so is the fishing!

Yes, you read it right, the gulf beaches at one of our greatest natural treasures, Honeymoon Island State Park, have finally been restored to their former glory following the total devastation wreaked by Hurricane Irma in 2017.

The state of Florida just spent another $1.5 million to dredge sand from, and widen, Hurricane Pass and pump that sand up to the northern beaches that bore the brunt of Hurricane Irma’s force and completely stripped them of sand.  This, after we spent $4.6 million to restore the beaches just before Irma in 2015.

Now the beaches are absolutely gorgeous again, with broad reaches of sugar white sand that stretch for miles, emerald green water, and plenty of parking just waiting for more people to come out and enjoy them.

For those of you unfamiliar with Honeymoon Island, it offers one of the last bastions of undeveloped and unspoiled beaches along Florida’s west coast, free from all the hotels, condos, tourist traps and traffic that characterize most of our beaches from St. Petersburg to Clearwater.

The best part is that Honeymoon Island is located less than 30 minutes west of Tampa International Airport, near Dunedin, FL, making it an easy day trip for folks looking for a little sun, sand and fun, enjoying some of the best sport fishing on our coast, or simply experiencing nature’s beauty in a pristine environment.

The island also offers picnic areas for gatherings large and small, protected backwaters for paddle sports enthusiasts, hiking trails for nature lovers, and bicycle trails that connect to the Pinellas County Trail for all of you cyclists out there.

For anglers, Honeymoon Island and its surroundings offer some of the best sport fishing in the Tampa Bay area, especially for shore bound anglers that don’t have a boat yet.

Trophy snook, redfish, speckled trout, pompano and more are readily caught from the gulf beaches, Hurricane Pass, and the beaches and bridges of the Dunedin Causeway, the land bridge that connects Honeymoon Island to the mainland over Clearwater Bay and St Joseph Sound.

Shark anglers will have a ball here, where numerous shark species from black tips to spinner sharks to hammerheads abound in plentiful numbers, and in sizes to delight even the most hard-core angler. But that’s another story.

The big story right now is all about tarpon!  This month, and through September, big schools of silver kings in the 100 to 200-pound class are parading up and down the gulf beaches and Dunedin Causeway searching for an easy meal.

While it may be helpful to have a fast flats boat with a trolling motor and poling platform to position your baits in front of these schools, plenty of big tarpon are hooked and landed by shore anglers sporting the right bait and tackle to entice and subdue these aerobatic fighters.

Early mornings and nighttime hours, when boating and other human activities are minimal, are the best times to sight these fish, and it’s easy to spot pods of 10 to 30 fish cruising the shallows just off the gulf beaches and along both sides of the Dunedin Causeway.  The trick is to get your bait out ahead of their line of travel and wait for a pickup.

Tarpon take a variety of crabs, live baitfish like Threadfin herring, pinfish, mullet and ladyfish, and even jumbo live shrimp.  I like to suspend my live baits under a big float or balloon so they can swim freely, but can’t find a hiding place on the bottom to avoid being eaten.  The vibrations from the struggling bait also help tarpon home in on it from a distance.  Big, fresh cut baits soaked on the bottom will also hook their share of fish.

I like to use a quality 8000-class spinning reel spooled with 30 to 40-pound braided line, six feet of 50-pound fluorocarbon leader and an 8/0 or 9/0 super shark J hook rigged on an 8-foot medium heavy rod to make sure the fish I hook are also the fish I land.  The importance of using a hook sharpener to burnish a razor-sharp triangle point on your hooks cannot be overstated.

Tarpon have hard, bony lips and mouths, so a super sharp hook along with several beefy hook sets are generally needed to keep tarpon from throwing your hook with all their jumping, head shaking and aerial acrobatics.

Whether you’re heading to Honeymoon Island beaches for sun and fun, to commune with nature, or to target a once in lifetime monster fish, be sure to stop into Barracuda Bob’s Island Surf & Sports for essential beach gear, water toys and cool apparel, and to get the best in baits, tackle and fishing advice to tackle a big one.

Visit Barracuda Bob’s and Honeymoon Island—just for the fun of it!