Megalops atlanticus, or tarpon in plain English, are one of the most prized catches of nearshore anglers in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Now is the time to learn Top Gulf Tarpon Tactics.
Although a few fish are year-round residents in warm water sanctuaries, the majority start showing up as early as April and will stick around until the first cold fronts rumble through in September. Known for their tremendous power, spectacular aerial antics and pure tenacity, tarpon can be targeted several ways on the flats, beaches, and backwaters. Here are the top three tactics:
Because of their unique ability to breathe ambient air, tarpon can often be spotted rolling on the surface gulping air as they do. The early morning hours when the waters are calm are the best time to spot “rollers.” And because tarpon are opportunistic feeders, they’ll gladly slurp down a tasty morsel, fake or real, that crosses their path. Savvy anglers will quietly watch for moving fish along known travel routes using the trolling motor, push pole or drifting along an intercept path. If using the trolling motor, the lowest setting possible is best to avoid spooking the fish. Cast lures, flies or a frisky live bait under a popping cork in front of and beyond the projected line of travel. Move the bait slowly into position and be ready for the strike.
Another popular method is sight-casting to spotted fish. The bigger ones will create a sizable V-wake in the shallows as they swim, pinpointing the direction of travel. With their blackish backs and considerable size, they also appear like floating logs when crossing over a sandy bottom in clear water. Either scenario allows for precise casting to on-coming fish. Calmer seas aid the visibility and quality polarized sunglasses (with copper or amber lenses) help cut the glare for better spotting, too.
As the westerly migration continues through the summer, some fish will split off from the main pulse to rest and feed. Tracking data shows some may resume the trek, while others are content to stick around, often in the mouths of coastal rivers and the brackish back bays. Rollers, free-jumping fish, spotted cruisers and wakes all tip off their location. Stealth intercepts or simply anchoring or staking off to let the fish come to you is effective. When they get in range, toss lures, baits, and flies to them. Casts need to be accurate, but allow enough distance to avoid spooking.
Carolina Skiff’s Sea Chaser 200 F Series flats boat is made for Gulf tarpon fishing. Featuring a stable beam and plenty of freeboards to handle the afternoon sea breezes, this model is also loaded with features serious tarpon hunters will appreciate. An insulated baitwell with maxi air is standard, along with two tackle boxes with trays, a center console with rod holders and an insulated fish box under the padded bench seat. Hydraulic steering, dedicated anchor storage, and flush-mount push pole holders are also standard, along with lockable rod storage. Power options include a 150-, 175- or 200-horsepower outboard. www.carolinaskiff.com