May can be an epic month where Spring and Summer collide. Bait schools are present all along the west coast of Florida. The tarpon, kingfish, Spanish mackerel, bonita, permit, snook and cobia all come alive.
For tarpon, most anglers have their best luck along the beaches. A stealthy presentation is your best bet. In my opinion, there is nothing more exciting in the angling world than the strike, jump and fight of a big tarpon in eight to ten feet of crystal-clear beach water. I recommend using your trolling motor or a push pole, if you have one, to get the boat into position as quietly as possible. A nose-hooked threadfin herring, pilchard or a half-dollar sized crab, free-lined or under a cork positioned in front of the school will have a good shot at getting bit. Remember to lead the fish slightly, so the bait can settle into the strike zone ahead of the fish getting there. Your tackle choices will be critical to your success, if you hope to actually land a big Tarpon! Rods in the 40 to 50-pound class are a must with a quality back bone and firm tip. Large spinning reels are a must as well. You’ll need all the drag surface you can get to win the battle. Quantum Cabo 80’s are my personal favorites. You’ll need 50 to 65-pound braided line with a 50 to 80-pound fluorocarbon leader.
For kingfish, wire leaders are recommended if slow trolling areas of hard bottom–you can anchor up and chum them up as well. When anchored up, I use long shank hooks with a 50-pound fluorocarbon leader or a six inch piece of #6 wire. You will get some cut offs, but on days I’m looking for steady action, this also works to get Spanish mackerel and bonita to the boat.
Snook fishing will peak this month as well along Florida’s beaches. Live pilchards, threadfins or grunts will all work wel,l as will a big frisky pinfish. May is one of the best months to catch your snook of a lifetime. Remember to get a quick pic and then right back in the water, as these beauties are essential to a sustainable snook fishery for years to come. Enjoy the month of May on the water and remember, fishing this month could be epic!