tarpon fishing

The fishing has improved again after a not so great week. Tarpon are showing up thick in all sizes all over the lagoon system. The bite is best early morning and slowing down towards noon, but they can be caught all day and night. Juvenile tarpon ranging from 1 to 40 pounds are in pretty much every creek or canal on the Indian River and Mosquito Lagoon as well as some of them in the Banana River and Sykes Creek.

Catching tarpon is fun regardless, but sight fishing them on shallow flats is hard to beat. They can be found close to shore on flats where there is abundant mullet and clear water. I stayed on a school of 5lb’ers yesterday for three hours and hooked many of them. I only caught one though.

There have also been random occurrences of adult tarpon in the Indian River and Mosquito Lagoon, so bring a heavy rod just in case. I saw 20 tarpon ranging from 80-120lb that would not eat on Friday, but they were gone yesterday. For more consistent (but still hit or miss) big tarpon action, fish nearshore. Most the fish are out of reach for surf anglers, but small boats and kayaks can access the fish most morning this time of year.

I usually fish a medium or medium light spinning rod with a 2500 size reel, 10lb braid, and 20lb leader for juvenile tarpon. The bigger fish (30+lbs) in those areas are best fished with a medium-heavy spinning rod, 4000 size reel, 20lb braid, and 40lb leader. To have a chance at catching a full grown tarpon, you need a heavy spinning rod with at least a 5000 size quality spinning reel, at least 30lb braid, and at least 50lb leader. Try to use even heavier unless you are not getting bites, but keep in mind that these fish sometimes are spawning with no desire to eat.

Live bait fish is the most likely way to get a bite. Finger mullet works well throughout the lagoon, and it can be caught by cast net in most shallow flats that have clear water. Nose hook it with a size 2/0 to 5/0 circle hook depending on bait size. This technique will not work when the tarpon key in on glass minnows. When that happens, use lures or flies less than 2 inches long. Bait off the beach is a lot harder to come by. Pogies are here right now, but you have to know what to look for and use a very big and heavy cast net. Small sabiki rigs inside the port can catch threadins. Drop small pieces of shrimp or squid for croakers and catfish.

Other fish species that should be biting inshore include snook, seatrout, small black drum, redfish, and sharks. Nearshore, small sharks, huge jacks, bonito, snook, and a few flounder should be biting. If offshore, expect king mackerel, red snapper, sandbar sharks, and goliath grouper. There are a few amberjack, mangrove snapper, and grouper in the mix with what NMFS will not let us keep. There also are random instances with no consistency of mahi, blackfin tuna, sailfissh, wahoo, and cobia. I would not target or expect those, but consider it a welcomed surprise if it happens.

Epic mahi fishing from a few weeks ago: