Sunshine Tarpon by Capt. Justin SuarezBen Secrest
As grey skies and cold windy days slow down our fishing here in the Northeast, our minds begin to drift with thoughts of drag screaming runs and the acrobatic assault of the mighty Silver King. Tarpon fishing in Florida can be found year round for the anglers and captains that are in the know. During the winter months your best bet to hook up to these brutes is to localize your search to South Florida and the Keys. The warm waters from Miami to the Florida Keys gives us countless shots at Tarpon each winter. Various species of baitfish flood the cuts, passes, bays and river mouths during the winter offering up the proverbial “smorgasbord” of easy meals for the almighty Tarpon.
If you find yourself in Miami there are two hot spots that will surely earn you a few shots at these acrobatic legends. Haulover Inlet and Government Cut are key areas that hold large numbers of tarpon because of the depths and also the easy forage that are presented to these hungry fish. Drift fishing these two areas with live bait will lead to success. Get out of the mind frame of large live shrimp and think large live crab and goggle eyes when drifting the tarpon hotspots. The best of the best is the only bait suitable when hunting down the powerful “poon.” These fish are known for explosive hookups, drag burning runs, and the most acrobatic aerial displays imaginable.
There you are applying copious amounts of sunblock and adjusting your fishing buff so your ears don’t end up a deep fried disaster just as the rod that you momentarily placed in the rod holder bends over and line is rapidly peeling off your reel. You leap to the rod in your best impression of “Flash” from D.C. Comics, and begin to struggle lifting the rod out of the holder. Out of the corner of your eye you see a massive 120lb Tarpon leap 6 feet out of the water and this entire scenario played out in under 5 seconds! The rod never leaves your hands at any time during your drifting pursuit of the Silver King because in 5 seconds or less your bite can come and go. Keep in mind that you have to keep heavy pressure on these fish and your ultimate goal is to flip the fish, essentially turning its head in the opposite direction, for each time that fish is given slack he can spit the hook or equally disastrous get a big gulp of air and refill his stamina meter adding grueling time to the fight for you and the fish.
If you are a light tackle addict or back country guru head down to the keys for endless opportunities at tarpon in the skinny water. From Key Largo down to Key West the backcountry spoils of the everglades and Florida Bay will give up giant tarpon to the fly and expertly placed soft plastics. The Keys can cure any cold weather blues during the doldrums of winter. The turquoise waters of the ocean meet with the teal gulf connected by the brackish florida bay giving way to a cornucopia of colors for your eyes to marvel at while in search of the Epic Tarpon.
Gear: Accurate SR-6 spooled with 20lb Braid matched with a 7’6” 20lb Rod. 30lb Fluorocarbon Leader matched with a 7/0 Light Wire Circle Hook.
Accurate SR-12 spooled with 30lb Braid matched with a 7’ 15-30lb Rod. 40lb Fluorocarbon Leader matched with a 8/0 Circle Hook.
Bait: Pinfish, Goggle Eyes, Crabs, Finger Mullet
Location: The Sunshine State particularly Miami’s Government Cut and Haulover Inlet located in Biscayne Bay. Virtually every Key in Florida with Islamorada to Key West being at the top of the list for backcountry Tarpon.