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Tarpon is an inshore fish that will put up a spirited fight when hooked. They are migratory and move from the Caribbean to the southern United States in spring and then back further south in the latter part of the year. Do you want to learn how to catch tarpon? In this article, we will discuss the movements, behaviors, and fishing techniques to catch tarpon.
Table of Contents
How To Catch Tarpon From Shore
Tarpon is found on the beach searching for prey. When you fish for tarpon on the shore, look for them a few feet from the shore when the tide is high. Look for structures like deep holes, troughs, and pockets for tarpons. They will be around the mouths of those structures looking for baitfish. Cast out your line and when a fish is on, reel it in fast to maintain control of the fish.
How To Catch Tarpon In Canals
When fishing for tarpon in canals, cast close to the fish after it rolls. Let the jig sink to about one-third of the way down, then begin the retrieve. After hitting your target depth, quickly snap the rod tip two times. This will make the lure quickly dart upwards. Then let the jig sink with a slack line. Sight-casting at rolling fish with a vertical jigging presentation works very well. A light tackle like a 7-foot medium 12 to the 17-pound rod with a 3000 to 5000-size reel with a 20-pound braid and 40-pound fluorocarbon line will work.
How To Catch Tarpon At Night
Tarpons can often be found in the inlets at night. They are less wary during the night and you can easily catch a trophy tarpon during the night. Tarpon waits for crabs, shrimp, and other baits to be washed off of the flats and sand bars with the outgoing tide.
You can use ladyfish, mullet, crabs, and large silver spoons to catch tarpons as they focus on these baits with the tide. For large tarpons, about 100 pounds or larger, an 8500 series reel and a 7 1/2 foot medium/heavy fast action rod with an 80-pound braid and a 100-pound leader will work.
For a large tarpon weighing 60 pounds or more on the beach, a 6500 series reel and a 7-foot medium/heavy fast action rod with a 50-pound braided line and a 60 to the 100-pound leader will work for catching large tarpons off the beach.
Best Bait For Tarpon
Shrimp is a good bait for tarpon and many other fish.
Pinfish is one of the best baits for tarpon.
Mullets work well as bait for catching tarpon.
Crabs are good bait for not only tarpon but other fish as well.
Ladyfish works well as bait for tarpon.
Pilchards are one of the best baits for tarpon.
Shad can be used as an effective bait for catching tarpon.
Greenbacks work very well to attract tarpon.
Threadfins work well to attract tarpon.
Best Lure For Tarpon
Spoons, especially silver spoons, are a good lure for attracting tarpon.
Jig heads and paddles tails work well as lures to attract tarpon.
Swimbaits work well as lures for young tarpon.
4. Twitch Bait
Twitch baits are a good lure for tarpon.
5. Plastic Eel
Plastic eels are an excellent lure to target tarpon as they can’t resist plastic eels.
Jerkbaits work well as lures for tarpon.
Poopers work well as lures for tarpon.
8. Soft Plastics
Soft plastics, jerk baits, and swimbaits are good lures for attracting and catching tarpon, snook, kingfish, and tuna.
Tarpon Fishing Tips
1. One of the best ways to catch tarpon is with dead bait on the bottom.
2. Tarpons can be found on beaches, inlets, basins, creek mouths, deep holes, troughs, freshwater rivers, canals, spillways, and grass flats.
3. Have a lot of braided lines on the spool because tarpon can strip off 100 yards easily.
4. Be on the lookout for pelicans and terns circling the beach or diving in near the shore. That is a sign that there are tarpons around and the birds are targeting them.
5. Always downsize your lures to match the hatch. If the birds that are diving into the waters are small white birds, then the baits are glass minnows or small pilchards. If the birds diving into the waters are larger birds like pelicans, then the bait could be mullets and you want to match the hatch also.
6. Tarpon likes to hunt in the inlets at night.
7. When all other baits are not delivering tarpons, use dead baits.
8. Tarpon has very good vision, yet anglers are more successful fishing for them in low light conditions like at night, dawn and dusk, and overcast days.
9. Tarpon is not a big fan of wind. They will quickly disappear when the wind starts making waves.
10. Trolling can be used to fish for tarpon when fishing from a boat.
11. You can put your fly fishing skills to good use fishing for tarpon if you are up for the challenge. Fly fishing for tarpon requires skill, strength, and patience.
12. Drifting can be used to fish for tarpon especially when they are not in the inlets and passes and they go into deeper waters.
13. During the tide, position yourself up-current and let your bait move to the fish.
14. Use sharp hooks. Tarpon has a bony mouth and you need very sharp hooks to go through the mouth and hook in.
15. Chumming can be used to fish for tarpon when you are on a boat.
16. Cast often and in front of a single tarpon.
17. When using shrimp, cast towards the fish and let the bait slowly sink in front of the tarpon.
18. Slowly retrieve spinning lures and plugs allowing them to sink. Then pull the rod tip and reel in the slack.
19. Artificial lures are most effective on flats.
20. If you are fishing with lures or jigs, make sure they are not weighted for them to hang below the hook when the line or leader is held vertically.
21. When you feel the bite on the line, take in the slack line and wait until you feel the weight, and strike hard two times. Additionally, wait a few seconds before setting the hook. This will ensure the bait is completely in the fish’s mouth.
22. If using hard lures, strike as soon as you feel the weight at the end of your line.
23. Tarpon will roll on its side when it gets tired of high jumps, somersaults, and gill-rattling.
24. Spring and Summer are the best times to fish for tarpon.
25. When fishing for tarpon, use live bait with a circle hook for the best chance of catching them.
26. When you get a tarpon hooked, it will start jumping and somersaulting in the air. You have to immediately drop the rod tip to make the line slack. This maneuver is called “bowing to the king”.
27. Once it re-enters the water, raise the rod and reel the line tight.
28. Once the jumping has ceased, put as much pressure as possible and change the angles often. This disorients the fish and helps you get it in quickly.
29. If you let the tarpon rest during the fight, it will recharge and be up for a second fight. You want to avoid that and reel it in when it is exhausted.
30. Sight-casting at rolling fish with a vertical jigging presentation works very well when fishing tarpon in canals.
The Bottom Line
Tarpon is an inshore fish that can often be found very close to the shore looking for shrimps, crabs, mullets, and other baitfish. They grow to be very large, over 7 feet and 300 pounds, and live in fresh and saltwater. It is a favorite game fish for anglers because of its size and antics when hooked.
If you are also interested in catching other fish like halibut, California corbina, and Jack crevalle, then read how to catch halibut, how to catch California corbina, and how to catch Jack crevalle. We hope you will pick up a few tips from those articles that will improve your fishing skills.