It’s tarpon time on the east coast of Florida and seas will be settling down to a manageable level for beach launching kayaks. As summer comes in bait of all sorts will flood the beaches enticing migrating tarpon schools to stay for a bit fattening up for their northward push. A properly placed bait or lure can have you latched into the fish of your lifetime from a kayak and I’m not sure if there is any better way to spend the day. The central section of Florida’s east coast is relatively shallow with little reef or rock structure. We don’t get a kayak chance at pelagic fish like Mahi, sailfish, wahoo, or tuna due to the distance of travel it takes to reach deeper blue water. Our prime target is summer tarpon that can reach hundreds of pounds and don’t mind our shallower waters and sand bottom. We do get opportunities to catch other species like King Mackerel, massive jack crevalle, cobia, and even tripletail. With many of our public beaches being miles from any inlet or port we can get away from the boat crowds on many days.
Beach launching your kayak successfully is honestly the first step to a pleasurable time on the water and its best to practice without gear to understand how your kayak responds in the surf zone without the risk of losing your expensive gear. A few quick tips would be never put the kayak between yourself and the waves, leash or tie down everything! Going out is the easy part if you maintain forward momentum not letting up until you are well outside of the break, kayaks don’t surf well so try not to catch waves, and if in doubt swim/walk your kayak in keeping it pointed at the beach while you hold it from behind allowing the waves to just roll over you and the boat. It is always best to buddy up with a partner and be safe. Things can and do happen so quick, and the ocean is extremely unforgiving.
These tarpons are large powerful fish so you must use adequate tackle! Spinning rods and reels in the 6-8000 class with plenty of backbone, Conventional setups in the 20-30lb class, leaders from 60-100lb range, and braid from 30-50lb. Quality circle hooks in the 6-8/0 range will work for the various live baits you can either cast or slow troll. Lures like large swimbaits/paddle tails, hard plugs, or even topwater plugs can get you hooked up. However, live bait typically gives you the best chance at both getting hits and keeping fish hooked. I have the pleasure of guiding many people to their bucket list dream tarpon catch every year from both kayaks and boats. Each one is an accomplishment for the angler that is permanently seared into memory banks.