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Tarpon 101

Tarpon 101

The scream of the reel, that first drag burning run, and a 100 lb. plus "silver king" explodes from the water in a crash of foam and spray. The hair on your neck will tingle, your adrenaline will pump as never before, because, in all of fishing, there is no experience comparable to that first hook-up with a giant tarpon
Your first thought may be that you would need some very sophisticated equipment to handle such a fish. If you have already done some fishing in the Keys or elsewhere, you probably already have some equipment that will work. Twenty-pound test line should be the minimum choice with either spinning tackle or conventional reels of adequate size to hold at least 250 to 300 yards of line. A Penn 7500SS or a Shimano 6500 Baitrunner reel are the most common spinning reels in use for Tarpon, with a seven to eight foot medium heavy action rod. Conventional reels should be of the lever drag design such as Shimano TLD 20 or 25, Penn International 12LT or 16S, or the Penn 25 GLS. . Again a seven-foot medium to heavy action rod will do the job. The terminal tackle is made up of a 6/0 to 10/0 circle hook, by Eagle Claw, Owner or Gamagatsu sharpened to the keenness of a razor, six to seven feet of 80 to 130 pound test fluorocarbon leader material and a number one Sampo swivel. the leader should be properly crimped, not tied to the hook and swivel. Next rig six to eight feet of double line with a Bimini twist or spider hitch. Tie your rig to the double line with a uniknot. Now you are ready to fish.
Within a fifteen mile radius of Marathon, there are some of the finest Tarpon fishing spots any where in the world. Tom's Harbor Bridge, Vaca Cut Bridge, the Seven Mile Bridge, and Bahia Honda Bridge are among the best with the most catches at the Seven Mile and Bahia Honda. Sunrise and sunset are the best times to fish. Most anglers prefer moving water (although not too fast). Be sure to float your bait with a popping cork or a piece of Styrofoam when the tide does slacken, to keep your bait off the bottom and away from "Jaws". When the tide is running a float will probably not be necessary.
A very important consideration is bait. The top contender in this category is live mullet, although expensive it is gourmet to the silver king. Pinfish, crabs and jumbo live shrimp top the list as alternative less expensive baits. Keep in mind that usually only six to eight mullet will be needed for one trip. Most local mullet catchers will deliver bait to your boat.
We now have tackle, bait and a place to go fishing for tarpon, but what do you do when you get there? The first thing to do is look over the area you intend to fish for signs of fish rolling or baitfish activity. Next watch your fishfinder as you cruise around. Big globs hanging off the bottom near bridges mean Tarpon! Try to anchor near a place where you marked fish or where you saw them roll. When anchoring, it is important to rig your anchor with a float and a quick release, so that it can be thrown off quickly and you can return to your spot.


Now that you have found some fish and anchored the boat, its time to drown some baits. Handle your mullet carefully as they are fairly delicate. Hook them through the top jaw and split the lower lip with a knife or scissors. This allows the bait to pass water over it's gills, thus staying alive long enough to be eaten. Let the bait out fifty or sixty feet behind the boat staggered so they don't cross your lines, a nervous mullet will do a lot of swimming, usually right toward the other mullet. The first indication of tarpon activity will be what we call in tarpon lingo, a nervous bait. The bait will start a very erratic movement signaling the close proximity of a tarpon. Next if he is feeding, the tarpon will move off with the bait in his mouth, when this happens the reel should be in open bail, free spool or Baitrunner depending on your equipment. Count three to four seconds and bring up the rod tip with firm but steady pressure. Now we are back at the first paragraph!

Tight lines and good fishing,


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