The resident tarpon are eating and will all winter

Wanted to see what the fish are up to since we had the cold front pass through and the temps weren't too low last night so let's give it a go.  Got up to the spot at 6:30, water temp 64... tarpon everywhere.  These are the resident tarpon that I target all winter... they're mostly 10-30 pounders with a couple of big lazy fatty girls mixed in.  We didn't get many hits today but the ones we got we hooked up on.  Ended up going two for two... one was a good 30 pounder that fought great on the light tackle... the other was about a 10 pounder.
I caught a trout and figured we might go for the inshore grand slam while we were at it... just needed a snook and a redfish... so we headed to a spot I knew we'd get a few snook from.
Got up there and boated a 25" snook and then a fat 35" girl.  The pics don't do this fish justice.  Need to get those arms out!  

Well I didn't plan the slam all that well because my hit or miss (usually miss) redfish spot was way in the other direction and we were running out of time... ahh well.  Next time.

Stay away from the red tide, find moving water, structure, water that warms up fast and you'll find fish.


Couple tarpon, a bunch of snook, and one big lesson

I had the opportunity to take a father/son out fishing a couple nights ago, and it really set my head right.  I wasn't expecting a banner night or anything, and with the cold front, a near full moon, and still feeling the effects of the red tide the odds were stacked against us.  It started on the dock when I met Gabe and his son Josh.  Josh was a very polite and bright eyed young man, and you could see the excitement in his face.  I always love when people bring a positive attitude with them on the boat, and this boy brought enough for all of us.  As I was talking it up with Gabe, I caught a glimpse of Josh and how excited he was.  We weren't even fishing yet, and he was just all smiles, soaking in the smell of the water, the sound of the 2 stroke, and the breeze of the boat ride... things that I take for granted so frequently without giving them a second thought.  Then when we loaded up with finger mullet after a throw of the cast net I again caught a glimpse of his excitement, and it was starting to rub off on me.  I started to look around instead of just looking ahead.  I started to 'get it' again.
We arrived to the spot and almost immediately hooked up... just a stinking ladyfish I thought to myself.  But to Josh it was a whale.  It was the biggest, baddest, hardest fighting fish he'd ever had on his pole.  And he was loving it... and I was loving the lesson.  I love the opportunity to hang out with kids... they always show you a shimmer of a reflection of how you used to feel about things... and sometimes we need to be reminded of that.


This is why we fish...

Guys I've been slacking.  When the red tide really hit us in mid June I pretty much stopped fishing regularly.  Charters weren't getting booked, the water was disgusting, and honestly I just didn't feel like being on the water at all.  It made me sick how nasty the water was.  I'd go out a little here and there with some mixed results, but I was just going through the motions.  This past weekend I took my daughter out fishing and I watched her catch 7 small mackerel out of a big pod we found off the beach.  I sat there watching the smile on her face and it reminded me why we fish.  Birds were dive bombing, mackerel were skying out of the water, and the cute little freckle face girl was just hootin and hollerin and grinnin from ear to ear.  I needed that reminder.  
So today I decided to go fish a good outgoing tide with very light wind and it's the day before a no-moon... perfect recipe for a good night... Within 5 minutes of having the baits out we hooked up on a 120 lb (conservative) tarpon.  Rodney the rod holder did a great job of setting the hook and we chased her around for 55 minutes before the hook pulled.  I wish I could have gotten that one in but I got tired of fighting it and really cranked the drag down... 10 minutes later the hook pulled.  All good though... we know there has to be more so we head back about a mile to where we started.  We jumped 8 more tarpon, got one to the boat, and mixed in a 36" and 28" snook in between the tarpon.  It was non-stop action during the outgoing, and I bet we missed more fish than we caught.  The tide turned and with it the fish decided they were done.
As we were fishing tonight I realized how happy we were.  We were hootin and hollerin and grinnin from ear to ear... and that's why I love this.


1 for 6 tarpon tonight... what red tide?

Haven't been posting much lately but I wanted to chime in and let you guys know that there's still some tarpon hanging around.  Not a ton, but there's some.  They're tougher than normal to get to chew, but they'll still take a jig from time to time.  We jumped 6 juvis tonight ranging from 10 to 25 lbs.  All super fun on the lightweight gear we were using.


5 for 16 tarpon the past two trips

Hooked up with a couple of repeat guests last night for a huge outgoing tide in the harbor.  Threw the whippy stick at em most of the night and ended up going 3 for 10 on the juvis and one small adult... maybe 60-70 pounds.  They'd turn on for 30 minutes and we'd jump a few, then turn off for an hour, then back on... definitely some fun action with the fly rods though.

Got home, made a repair to the boat in the dark, got my healthy 3 hours of sleep and hit the local spots for another 6 tarpon with a couple of first timers.  These were a mix of live bait and artificials.  Again, no big ones to be found (they're all down at the pass), but had a great time with the light tackle on the kiddos.


3 for 11 tarpon... and a glowing pod of tarpon in the night (not kidding)

Yesterday evening we headed out to Boca to see what was going on, and when we got there, there were 60+ boats out there all huddled up.  Goodness... I was quickly reminded why I don't fish Boca.  We sat for a few minutes to assess the situation and then all of a sudden 3/4 of the boats started heading in!  It was a miracle... or at least the tournament had ended.  Thank goodness.  So we slid over in the cut to see if we could see anything, and we were quickly greeted by tarpon.  Thousands and thousands of rolling tarpon.  The bottom and side scan were just stacked with them.  There was seriously 20' thick of tarpon on the bottom... it was quite the site.  We didn't have any bait so we started throwing artificials... and before you knew it we were hooked up.  Fought it for about 30 minutes while a googan wouldn't stop getting within 20' of my boat, and eventually our lines tangled.  Another reason why I really don't like fishing the pass.  Then he actually tried to fight the fish into the boat.  Well we know how that one went... the line broke and no more fish.  Guys, if you're new to this and find yourself fishing the pass... keep an eye out for boats that are fighting a fish nearby and give them some space.  If your lines happen to tangle, and it's happened to all of us, please cut your line.  It's the nice, southern thing to do.  Back to story.... Hooked up a couple more times but it got dark on us and the wind was stiff out of the east which made it pretty sloppy out there, and that's not a good situation for the 20' Action Craft flats boat, so we decided to head back towards Englewood and hit a couple spots on the way.  The beach side was very, very smooth with the East wind, so we went that way instead of through the intercoastal. And here's where it gets weird:  As we're cruising back my friend hits me and says "did you see that?".  I say see what?  He says "that glowing in the water... it was a big blob of glowing".  So I cut it and turn around, just sort of wishfully hoping we stumbled on a huge pod of tarpon.  As we're heading back to the spot we both see it and my goodness if it isn't a half football sized pod of tarpon making the water glow!  So we follow them and throw artificials at them and they just won't eat.  We do this for about 30 minutes before we finally decide to throw a crab at them.  (we dipped some while in the pass).  Crab was in the water maybe 5 seconds and the whole area in front of us suddenly glowed like somebody turned a night light on, and we were on!  Drag screaming, following a glowing ball of fish in the dark, chaos and a ton of fun.  Fought this one for about an hour, got the leader, and with a final shake she came undone.  
So what are the chances we can find the glow ball of fish again?  As bad as our chances were, I kid you not, we found them.   three more times and three more fish.  All adults, all amazing glowballs in the night.  The really cool thing was that you could tell you were hooked up before you could feel it, because this field of tarpon would light up a bright flash right before the line went tight.  It was one of the most memorable things I've ever seen.  I wish the video would have turned out but unfortunately it didn't.  


2 for 2 tarpon this am

Had some boys from MA down today with a tarpon on the bucket list.  Some good fishermen from up north tuned in on monster blue catfish and stripers and they had the silver king in their sights.  Got out at first light and immediately saw some juvis rolling around us.  Not a ton, but just enough to keep it interesting.  Had a few good hits but couldn't hook up, and then Russell got this 30 pounder to the boat.  It was a pretty crazy fight on pretty light tackle, and it was everything they had hoped for.  We had some crazy blow ups on mullet a while later with a crazy chase around a dock, jumping on it, whipping the rod under the pilings, then jumping back on the boat... but unfortunately that one got off.  Bummer, but memorable.  We decided to extend the trip a bit and headed to another spot and almost immediately got another one to the boat... this one a bit smaller around 20'ish.
All in all... great time with great guys.  Water temp is bouncing back from the cold front and the migration should be in full swing in the next couple weeks.


White butterfiles, and 2 tarpon this AM

Finally saw a few white butterflies today... and with the butterflies came a few tarpon to check out the warmer dark brackish water of the peace.  Saw 4 or 5 that went 120+ today... nice and dark from the stained waters.  They weren't having any of what I had to offer though... so I had to settle for a couple juniors today.  Both caught on small jigs.  Looks like one more cold front this week and then we should be home free for the summer.  Bring on the migration!!!

Oh and I caught 4 of the biggest jacks I've ever seen on this coast.  Big enough that they were pulling drag enough that I was hoping they were 50-60 pound tarpon... ahh but the headshake.


0 for 1 this am... bait all over

Took out Dave from CO and a few friends this am for some full moon, cold front tarpon action.  Still a little early in the season yet, but I've been seeing some good groups here and there, and I figured with the cold night they'd bunch up in a few spots.  Well we found em, and there were quite a few, but man they just wouldn't chew for anything.  Dan jumped a 10-15 pounder and had a couple other good hits, Dave had a hit or two but none in the air.  John hooked a blue crab.  And a stick.  Oh and the anchor.  Lol....  had a great time with the crew this AM and would have stayed out all day if I could have.  Let's get this cold front over and start the migration... there's bait all over... the tarpon won't be far behind.


4 for 9 tarpon this am... Early Christmas for us!

4 for 9 tarpon this AM... all juvis

Best Xmas gift ever... 9 tarpon just a few days before Christmas. All juvis but I'll take it. Almost all were caught on live bait at various water levels. Caught 4 pretty dang big jacks also... maybe 12 pounders? Great time this am with pretty much non-stop action. We even had a double at one point. Big thanks to Michael for considering me again for a tarpon charter and a great job going 4 for 9 on the poons!


This is why we keep a fishing log... 2 for 2 on adult tarpon this AM

This is why we keep a fishing log... 2 for 2 on adult tarpon this AM.

I was checking back on the past few years' fishing logs and noticed a little trend I hadn't seen before. Set my alarm for 3AM, and headed out. Conditions were perfect... light/no wind, strong outgoing tide, and a couple others I'll keep to myself.  Got out to the spot and within 5 minutes I was hooked up on a solid 80 pounder. Of course he wrapped me around a piling and I thought for sure he was a goner... but opening the bail and a little outside the box thinking got it out from the piling to continue the fight. Got him to the boat for a quick release after about 25 minutes. This one was caught with a black Hogy original rigged Texas style with a 7/0 circle hook through the nose and a 1/4 oz bullet weight.
Caught my breath and idled back up to the spot. Saw a few rollers and made some good casts but no hook ups right away... until about 10 minutes later... this time I got into a 120 pounder that went clean through the pilings for me... thank goodness. Got her to the boat after a good 30 minute fight with quite a few jumps. I love these tarpon when the water cools off... they have so much more energy than when the water is 94 degrees in August. This fish was caught with a purple Hogy Pro Tail paddle in 2 oz.

Here's a situation where keeping a log really paid off. It only takes 5 minutes of your time when you get home from fishing to write down a few notes. Wind, recent temperature fluctuations, tide, moon, time of day, location, technique/lures used... anything of note.

Good luck out there... there's still tarpon around... for now.


1 for 2 tarpon and a slob snook tonight

1 for 2 tarpon tonight and slob 38" snook

Decided to see if this little warm front moved the fish back to where they were a couple weeks ago and went into Charlotte Harbor tonight in search of some tarpon. Go to the spot on a great incoming tide and 72 degree water temps. Pretty calm NE wind. First cast with a purple baitbuster and landed a ladyfish. Not a tarpon but I kept it for bait. Couple casts later, same thing. Couple casts later, same thing. Well I have 3 ladies in the baitwell now and a dead baitbuster (totally surprised it lasted 3 ladyfish... normally it's only one ever since they started making the lures out of wet paper bag). So now I know there's ladies here and I don't want to catch any more, but I figure tarpon might be eyeballing the ladies (if they're around)... so I switch to a big ole white Hogy paddle tail on a 1 oz Barbarian jig head. Get crushed about 5 casts in but missed it. Cast to the same spot and get pounded again... missed again. A few minutes later I saw a really big boil on the surface so I casted over it by about 20'... let the tide bring the Hogy back into it... BAM. Tarpon in the air! About a 50 pounder... got a couple jumps out of it but it broke the leader. Dang. Fished about an hour longer until my next fish... a 38" snook that was sitting on the bottom. This thing had a 20" girth! She was a pig. Caught on the big ole' white Hogy paddle tail. Released to go make more big shouldered line-siders.
Maybe 10 minutes later I see another big boil on the surface... repeat the same procedure as before... fish on! This one's a little smaller than the other but still a fun fish. 40 pounder. Fought for about 5 minutes and made a quick release.
Water temps are good, clarity is good, tides are good, catching tarpon and slobs is good... go fishing.


12 tarpon today

12 tarpon this am... and we got number 100 to the boat!

Man today was on fire... and it almost didn't happen. Here's the skinny: Got up at a decent time with no plans on getting some mullet since they didn't really work yesterday. Ran out to the spot with nice calm seas. Put out the trolling motor and put it on spot lock and threw some lures for awhile with nothing to show for it... didn't even see a roller... so now I'm thinking the fish moved on to a different spot and I'm going to have to run around to find them. Then another guy pulled up and was about to thow anchor close enough that a good toss could have gotten the anchor in my boat... and he was right where I've been casting for the last hour. So I politely ask if he'd rather just fish with me in my boat since we were so close... and he got what I was saying and backed away 30 yards. Still too close for me but I don't own the spot and I wasn't catching anything anyway. So I'm about to call it and start to troll out of there to see what's in the area when I spot the tarpon party... and they were on it. Got over there and proceeded to jump 12 in the next 3 hours... 2 adults, the rest juvis. One even jumped right in the boat, lol. Broke out the 3000 series Nacsi on a lightweight rod with 10# braid and had a blast with the juvis. All on artificials... and the bait of choice changed as the day went on.


8 Tarpon this morning

8 Tarpon this morning...

Got up about 5:30 this am to go get some bait... found a big pod of mullet and got what I needed with a single cast of the small 8' net I keep around for when I'm feeling lazy... like at 5:30 am by myself in the dark.
Ran out Stump Pass to a butter smooth gulf and headed south.
Got to the spot and saw quite a few rollers before I had my first bait on... within 10 minutes the first one was on, and within 10 seconds the first one was off... ha ha. Ended up jumping 7 more and got 2 to the boat. No big ones today... but still a ton of fun. The bite was good for an hour and turned off once the tide turned. Headed home, tried a couple more spots with nothing to show for it.

So that makes 99 tarpon to the boat so far this year, and 389 in the air. Still time to hit my goal of 500 for the year, but if this wind doesn't let up it surely won't happen. Time will tell I suppose.


PS... the water is still stained but it's getting clearer by the week... it's actually pretty clear outside of lemon bay... it's just really dark still.

Sorry I haven't posted in awhile... but we're almost to 400 tarpon!!!

It's been a few months since I posted in the reports section.  We've had some good times, some great times (mullet run), and some rough times (Hurricane Irma).  So far this year our tarpon tally is 97 for 381!  That's a heck of a lot of fish!  Although the large portion of migrating fish have left the area, there are still plenty of resident tarpon hanging around (if you know where to look).  We've jumped 5 the past two nights out, and both trips were cut short by the weather.  I still think 500 tarpon on the year is possible but only time will tell... less than 3 months to go.



2/4 tarpon, a few snook and some sharks

2/4 tarpon, a few snook, and some sharks

Good times today... got onto some juvi tarpon and went 2/4. 3 were on Hogys of different styles and one was on a pinfish. Got a few snook... again some on hogys and one on a pinfish. Then caught a few ladyfish to use for shark bait and ran two decent sharks before being broken off at the leader/wire leader connection on one of them. Ahh well... fun night for sure.


Response from "Wayne" about the fishing... and the dropped rod :)

Ha! You are the best! You'd think I never fished before but as I have relived the moment about 20 times over the weekend as my friend Paul has been busting my chops.....Here is what I think actually happened. 

I was standing on the front of the flats boat (Something I'm not used to) and as that first fish took off I was really surprised at how fast and how powerful it was. I was also surprised at how tight the drag was. I also was surprised that the fish almost pulled me off the boat and into the river. So, I decided to reach for the drag to back it off a little. At the same time, that Tarpon took off and again caught me off guard. Looking back on it, I don't think it "ripped" the rod out of my hand. I think it pulled me off balance so much that I was going for a swim. At that point, it was either me or the rod that was going for a swim! I really don't know for sure.

In either case it was a great night! 16 fish on and at least another 20+ bites that never quite hooked up. The next day we went out into the Gulf and couldn't stop talking about how much fun we had the night before. 

One other thing that happened later in the night was my friend Paul fighting a tarpon that hit about 3 feet from the boat. It makes its first jump and almost hits Paul in the face. Paul jumps back like a little girl and it makes its second jump almost hits him again and he almost fell over backwards. It was pretty funny to see a grown man almost get beat up by a Tarpon!

In either case we all had a great time and hope to do it again later this Summer or next Summer when we are in town.

Thanks for the great time Keith!

16 tarpon jumped... and a floating rod?

16 Tarpon jumped... and did you know that Redbone rods float?

Had a charter a couple nights ago and we got into em good... 16 tarpon in the course of 4 hours. They were hitting Hogy 7" and a couple other jigs... the darker the color the better. The real excitement came on fish #1 though... I'm not sure people go into this with a good understanding of just how hard a tarpon can pull... even a juvi. So about 10 seconds into the fight, tarpon #1 lays down the hammer and goes for a screaming run, which is awesome, except that angler #1... let's call him "Wayne"... wasn't expecting it and the tarpon yanked the rod out of his hand. Lol! So I'm in the boat watching a Smoke 50 with Hurricane Redbone go down in the water, I'm about to jump in to grab it but I realize I have the car keys and my phone in my pocket so I just watched the rod go by... then the amazing happened and the rod actually started to float! Apparently there's just enough cork on the handle and it came back up to the surface! So we troll over, "Wayne" grabs it... and I kid you not, the fish was still on! I swear! So "Wayne" starts fighting this fish again and we're all laughing and trying to record it... it was amazing! Probably the biggest roller coaster of emotions I've ever had on a boat lol.
Step 1 - Fish on... excitement! (especially the first tarpon of the night)
Step 2 - Rod in water... confusion (wtf just happened) followed by maybe a hint of anger (I can't believe this googan just dropped my $300 rod in the water!!! )
Step 3 - Rod floating... hope (we might actually get this thing back)
Step 4 - Rod in hand ... relief
Step 5 - Fish on!?!? ... OMG THIS IS THE CRAZIEST!!!

Lol... I wish I had the whole thing on video. Good times.

Oh and I disassembled and greased up the Smoke 50 and all is right with the world. It needed a cleaning anyway. 


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Caught my first tarpon on fly!

Caught my first tarpon on fly!

Last week I had a couple guests on the boat and they did an awesome job with the tarpon on fly... so of course I had to break down and go buy a fly rod. Now typically I'm the type that will buy once, cry once, and get good gear... but in this case I wanted to make sure it was something I liked before I blew a bunch of money on it... so I bought literally the cheapest fly gear known to man. I got a 10wt Ugly Stik (I wish I was kidding) rod, and a Okuma SLV... got them both for under $100 shipped. Lol. Well anyway... now that you know I'm using pretty lousy gear, I got to use it tonight. Here's the setup:
Very light winds. Good thing because as you can imagine I'm lousy with a fly rod. Water was very smooth... glass minnows all over... tarpon slurping them up on the shadow line... perfect for me! Started throwing it around and it started to come back to me from when I fly fished for smallies up north. About 10 minutes in I got a good hit and jumped my first tarpon! Probably a 15 pounder but whatever... I'll take it. Then another 10 minutes I jumped another... maybe a 30 pounder. I'm starting to get the hang of this I think... then I got this 40 pounder to the boat. Happy days out on the water tonight!


Oh PS... I did jump another 5 using spinning gear. Didn't land a single one. 

7 for 21 tarpon in 4 hours!

7 for 21 tarpon tonight... 4 for 7 on fly

I'm seeing a shiny new 10 wt in my future...
We fished the bottom half of the huge outgoing today and just wrecked the tarpon. From start til stop we averaged a fish in the air every 12 minutes. Non-stop laughing and hollering all night. All the fish were juvis from 30-45 lbs but man on light tackle they're a blast. I was a little concerned what the front was going to do with all the fish... but it seems that it made them hungry. Most fish were hooked on Hogy arti's tonight, with the exception of the 7 jumped on fly of course. We even had a couple of doubles tonight... man what a blast.
The fly rod was on fire when it was being used... it usually wasn't any more than 4-5 casts before it hooked up... and the landing ratio was about 60% vs 20% on the jigs. I'm going fly rod shopping... I don't think my 6 wt is going to cut it.