Tarpon Time on Anna Maria Island

by Capt. James Vadas

On these windy days in between the storm fronts I have been fishing around Emerson point in Tierra Bay, catching snook and redfish along the mangroves. Casting live shiners on number two circle hooks with 3’ of 20 lb. fluorocarbon leader. On days with less wind when it’s more comfortable to drift I use the same set up with a popping cork to catch trout. I have been catching some nice trout in about 6’ of water near the grass flats of Bimini Bay. Speckled sea trout are catch-and-release only in our area until next year. Wet your hands before handling the trout to prevent removing their slime coat which protects them from abrasions while they swim through the grass. Get them back into the water quickly, but watch out for those cormorants! They will swim up behind a trout that is tired from the fight and gobble them up whole. You would not think that a full-grown trout would fit down the throats of those birds, but I have seen it a few times. They hang out around my trout fishing spot eating pinfish hiding in the grass. You know the little bait fish that peck the eyeballs out of the shiners that we are using for bait to catch trout? That’s right, when you reel your bait fish back to the boat and his eyeballs are missing? Pin fish are the culprits. So, I don’t really mind the cormorant eating pinfish. These birds use my boat like a hunting blind. “Scuba Ducks” is what I have nicknamed them because they swim underwater better than they fly. They hide behind the shadow of my boat, to block their silhouettes from their prey while I drift over the grass flats. They swim alongside my boat diving and surfacing to swallow whole pinfish. These are smart birds! I have seen a video of Asian fisherman training them to retrieve fish. They seem to be smart enough not eat the bait we are using because they can see the hooks in them, however if you do hook any birds I have found the best method is to use a beach towel over the bird’s head and wings to restrain their movement until you can remove the hook.

Now that tarpon season is upon us the big tides are pulling all the crabs off of the flats and into the pass. The tarpon usually feed more around the tide changes. We mostly use crabs hooked in the corner of the shell, suspended in the moving water from a cork float on 40 lb. fluorocarbon leader around Passage Key near Bean Point. We also use pilchards and threadfins on free lines to target the fish near the top of the water. When tarpon show up on the sonar in deeper water, try to target them by hooking 3 or 4 shiners right through the middle on one single hook and egg sinker to get down to the bottom. When sight fishing for them off the beaches of Anna Maria and Eggmont, have a soft plastic Hogy swimbait ready. When you spot a string of fish, cast in front of the tarpon, retrieve at an angle so they will see it from a far enough distance that you won’t spook them. It’s important to retrieve it slow and steadily for at least 10’ or 12’ so they can track its movement long enough, believe that it’s something real, and eat it. So don’t twitch it or jig it, steady as she goes. Once they take that bait, hold on tight because you are in for the battle of a lifetime.

Tight Lines and God Bless!

Yours Truly,

Captain James

Capt. James Vadas, owner/operator of Living Water Charters on Anna Maria Island, FL can be reached at 941-812-1245. You can also find him: https://www.livingwatercharters.com  https://www.facebook.com/LWCfishing/