Tarpon Fishing Yankeetown Florida

Captain Rick with a nice Redfish catch

Tarpon are considered one of the great saltwater game fishes, not only because of the size they can reach but because of their fighting spirit. when hooked. They are very strong, making spectacular leaps into the air. The flesh is undesirable and bony. In Florida and Alabama, a special permit is required to kill and keep a tarpon, so most tarpon fishing is catch and release.

Although a variety of methods are used to fish for tarpon (bait, lure and fly on spinning, conventional or fly rod), the method that has garnered the most acclaim is flats fishing with a fly rod. It is a sport akin to hunting, combining the best elements of hunting with fishing. A normal tarpon fly rod outfit uses 10–12 weight rods and reels, spooled with appropriate line and using a class leader tippet of 12–20 pounds (5.4–9.1 kg); truly light tackle fishing where the fish may weigh 10 times or more than the breaking strength of the leader. Typically an angler stations himself on the bow of a shallow water boat known as a 'flats skiff' and with the aid of a guide searches for incoming tarpon on the flats (inshore areas of the ocean that are very shallow, typically no more than 3–4 feet (0.91–1.2 m) deep). When a school or pod of tarpon is sighted, the guide positions the boat to intercept the fish. The angler usually has no more than 6–10 seconds to false cast out enough flyline and make an accurate cast to these fast moving fish. Accuracy and speed are paramount but the task is compounded by the inevitable excitement and nervousness of seeing a school of fish that may top 180 pounds (82 kg) bearing down on the angler. Once the cast is made, the fly is retrieved and hopefully a tarpon inhales the fly. The hookset is difficult due to the hard mouth of the fish which has been likened to the hardness of concrete. For that reason many tarpon throw the hook on the first few jumps and so many times it is asked of an angler "how many tarpon did you jump?" rather than how many they caught. If the hook stays secure, then the fight is on. Tarpon have tremendous endurance and are one of the most exciting gamefish to fight—frequent spectacular jumps, long runs, and stubborn bulldogging are all part of the game. Although an experienced and skillful tarpon angler can usually land a tarpon in less than an hour, the average angler usually takes longer, anywhere from an hour to more than three hours.

Another popular method is using lures or bait on heavy spinning or conventional gear. Many anglers prefer this as a more surefire method to catch tarpon. Usually the reels are filled with line from 30 to 80 pounds (14 to 36 kg) test although 50 pounds (23 kg) seems to be the most popular. Although a great deal of fun, the outcome is less often in doubt, unlike fly fishing with light 20 pounds (9.1 kg) test, and getting a tarpon to take a crab, mullet or pinfish is easier than an artificial fly.

Despite its namesake, the Atlantic tarpon (Megalops Atlanticus) is not limited to one body of water or exclusive to the east coast. In their northern migration, tarpon range through the Florida Keys and gradually make their way up the west coast of Florida and on to the Texas coast.

E-mail: captain@ospreyguides.com