by Capt. James Marko
I get the luxury of targeting a lot of species with my business but without a doubt my favorite fish to target with light tackle is Juvenile Tarpon. In this article, I hope to give you some tips that will increase your hook-ups. When targeting tarpon anywhere from 5 to 60 pounds, you gotta down size your mono leader to anywhere from 10lb and at the most 30lb. I’m a fan of the Fishtale Fluorocarbon 30lb, not the most expensive and still gets the job done. If you’re using live bait, nothing beats white bait, but these guys will eat anything from pinfish to finger mullet. If you’re using lures I’m a fan of the Savage Gear mud minnow top water hard bait. I prefer white, but the mullet pattern has worked great as well.
So now that you got your bait and line figured out now it’s time to find these guys. Canal systems are great spots for juvenile tarpon. Look for slick water and wait. You’re looking for a subtle role, a small black dorsal and a flash of silver. Be patient and figure out their role pattern. Generally, there’s never one by itself, so try to discern a pattern, are they rolling in a circle? Are they feeding along the sea wall? Once you have this figured out, position your bait in the most likely directions they’re going. I generally watch anywhere from 10-30 mins. Patience will pay off for you if you figure out their pattern. Now if you have the luxury of a full bait-well, chum some white bait in the general direction of the tarpon rolls and wait for the blows ups. Here’s a tip, stun the bait that you’re chumming with. You want the baitfish to freak out on the surface to see/hear the blow up on the bait. When they blow up, throw your bait in the area and hope for a hook up. Now here’s the hardest part once you’re hooked up, DON’T YANK when the fish breaches the surface. You have to point to relieve the tension so the fish won’t break you off. They’ll jump anywhere from 3-5 times and if fought correctly the fish will be ready to land after 10-15 mins. When targeting these guys, you can use anywhere from 2000-4000 series with 10-30lb braid. So basically, most of your light tackle can catch an amazing sportfish that people pay thousands to fish for with the hope of hooking into one. We’re blessed to live in a state with such an amazing fishery. In my experience, I’ve learned patience and constantly trying to learn about fishing is what sets you apart from the weekend warrior to a season vet. Don’t be afraid to explore new areas or new locations or even new boat ramps. You never know what new fishing luxury is around the corner.