Megalops Atlanticus, aka the Atlantic Tarpon… This fish is probably the most sought-after inshore big game fish, and with good reason. It’s interesting to note that fishing for Tarpon developed right here on the west coast of Florida. Way back in 1885, Mr. W.H. Wood was here on vacation from New York City and caught the first Tarpon on rod and reel in what is now called Tarpon Bay near Sanibel. From then on, Tarpon fishing has been an addiction for many. The allure of Tarpon comes from the difficulty in boating one. Their sheer size, strength and acrobatics the second they feel that hook set poses an extreme challenge. Although Tarpon migrate, we have a very healthy local resident population that are accessible to us year-round. They are found offshore, near shore in passes and along the beaches, and deep in the brackish waters of backcountry. 

I will go full disclosure: I love catching the little juvis and teenagers, and have caught loads of them. I don’t target the big ones, though, so for this writing, I met with Charter Captains Chris Broome, owner of Clean Sweep Charters. Chris is a homegrown local guy with a world of knowledge, having spent his life on our waters learning and growing, and now spends over 200 days a year putting clients on fish. He has been on several fishing shows and hosted some well-known fishing captains and celebrities. He runs a spacious and comfortable 24-foot Dorado that puts his clients right on the action for a variety of species.

In this month’s fishing blog, I will share Chris’ knowledge and techniques.

Tackle

To best guarantee success and fight the fish on good terms, going stout is the route. Chris uses and recommends 8-foot rods with heavy or extra heavy actions and a fast tip. The rod length fast tip helps with rod-casting ability since they tend to be beefy. He’ll pair the rods with 6000 series reels and fills them with 40lb braid. Braid is strong, abrasion resistant and has no stretch, factors needed for a solid hook set on Tarpon. This combination guarantees good line capacity for potential long, hard tackle testing runs and a solid drag to help tame those 100lb+ fish.

Generally, water clarity will dictate Chris’ choice in the leader strength, but he starts at 40lb minimum if needed because of ultra-clear water, but he prefers 60lb or 80lb. The heavier leader is used to better serve the customers and the Tarpon. Once hooked, Chris works his boat to keep close to the Tarpon and give his clients as much control as possible. He fully respects the Tarpon, and a quick and humane fight is always his goal.

Techniques

The bigger Tarpon are usually found along the beaches and in the passes. Experience has taught Chris to look for water depths in the 6-to-12 foot range. He will vary his technique to adapt to best fish those areas. Along the beaches, he’s been successful with either threadfin or mullet drifted under a cork with about a 6-foot fluorocarbon leader and 6/0 hooks. By the way, in both of these scenarios, it’s important to set a correct drift or “freeline” the baits, which allows them to appear as natural as possible. Once they move to the passes, Chris said the fish instinctively switch their interest to pass crabs. These crabs are known to drift in the current, and the Tarpon will switch to this food source. The pass crabs are about 2 to 4 inches in size, and that’s what he’ll use as bait. Folks, remember to “match the hatch” to show them what they want!  Again, freeline them under corks with as natural a presentation as possible. A real crab will not swim against a current, so having no unusual movement or resistance in your presentation is crucial. At times, conditions and angler experience will allow the use of artificial lures and Chris will keep it super simple – same rods, same braid and same leader, but with a classic locally developed lure, like the DOA Bait Buster, a tried-and-true lure in these waters. Recently, Chris has been throwing the fairly new NLBN (No Love Bait Needed) lures with similar success. FYI: with both these baits and with other artificials, a silver and black (mullet looking) or purple and black combination is the ticket. I’ve not seen a purple fish in my entire life, but Tarpon are keenly drawn to this pattern. With these two lures, the presentation is as simple as it gets: cast, let it sink and retrieve the lure. In your mind, see it as a mullet just cruising along, natural and smooth.

My friends… Tarpon can be extremely picky, finicky and frustrating. They will tease you and refuse to take the best baits or lures. Even when hooked, that bucket mouth is hard as bone and hookset isn’t always guaranteed. The acrobatic beast will throw that hook in spectacular fashion and in plain view to further frustrate you.

Well folks, some of these techniques may be known to you, and some may be new to others. I’ve learned volumes from my time with Chris Broome and hope to get on the water with him. This kid is the real deal and has a great personality as well (the kind of guy I don’t mind hanging out with!). Look him up at MarcoIslandCharterFishing.com or call him at 239-398-4872.

About the Author

Joe-Garcia-Headshot

Joe Garcia is the Brand Fishing Ambassador at Sunshine Ace Hardware.

Contact Joe for information on the hottest new fishing gear in stock, local fishing tips and more: JGarcia@SunshineAce.com.