Ozona- Tarpon have returned to local waters for the summer and provide anglers with an almost unparalleled challenge among inshore, saltwater gamefish.
Tarpon will be found around area bridges and passes as well as along area beaches. They’ll also be around deeper flats and channel edges.
The many areas tarpon will be found this time of year makes them easily accessible for boat and shore bound anglers alike. However, tactics vary based on where the fish are found.
Tarpon will eat flies, mullet, pinfish, greenbacks, crabs, jigs and on. They are very versatile fish; I have even caught tarpon on cut baits fished on the bottom.
Before pursuing tarpon there are certain risks and factors that must be considered. Knowing how to properly handle the fish, using proper gear, knowing what to do in the event of a shark attacking the fish and the individual level of experience/ having a good partner if fishing by boat are all vital.
Because tarpon fight so hard and perform many acrobatic jumps there are times when your reel gets dumped very quickly. If you’re fishing from a boat, a partner is necessary to chase the fish down to help regain line and navigate through bridge pilings while the other fights the fish.
This time of year I notice an uptick in the amount of very large sharks close to shore – the biggest sharks, the hammerhead and bull and occasionally even the tiger are here following tarpon schools. While it’s true that we have these species here year round, I tend to see them more and hear about people having more interactions with them during tarpon season.
If you are fighting a tarpon and you have a shark on the fish, open the bail and let the tarpon get away from its pursuer. There are times where you may even have to break the fish off.
When and if a large tarpon is landed, do not bring it into a boat or onto shore, it puts unnecessary stress on the fish. Never touch the gills of a tarpon it will cause breathing problems for the fish.
Bring the fish alongside of the boat, revive it and release it. If you’re going to handle them, grab their lower jaw and hold on.
Tarpon are sometimes called the perfect gamefish. Adding tarpon to an angler’s list of summer targets can make the summer or a lifetime.
Photo Captions: The editor with a nice Islamorada tarpon
Other photo: William Ward with an Islamorada tarpon