TIPS FOR FISHING TARPON
Nicknamed the “Trout of the Tropics,” Tarpon are a favourite among fishos for their strong fight and abundance in our northern waterways. Barra fishos have long been taking Tarpon as a by-catch but more anglers are starting to try their hand at targeting Tarpon in their own right.
Although the Australian Tarpon doesn’t grow as big as their North American cousins, they still offer some impressive acrobatics on the hook and can come in at around 2.5 kilos and around 80cm in length in some cases (the largest come in at 150cm).
LOOK FOR THE MULLET
Finding Tarpon is half the battle. They are estuarine fish, but will turn up in some surprising places. Lagoons and freshwater creeks often yield Tarpon but only if they have some access to saltwater. A strong indicator of Tarpon is a bountiful presence of Mullet. If you know a waterway has a strong Mullet population, there is a good chance there will be some Tarpon too.
FISH A FALLING TIDE
Tarpon like plenty of water movement. For me, I have had the most success on falling tides, after dark. They prefer to surface when the sun isn’t on the water and are generally far more active outside of daylight hours.
JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN SEE THEM DOESN’T MEAN THEY ARE BITING
Part of what makes Tarpon so frustrating is that they almost tease you in their behaviour. The number of times I have seen a school of fins breaking the surface, usually after a storm when there could be up to a thousand gathered in one place, yet when I start casting at them I get nothing. They just keep gasping in air, unphased by my bait or lures. Just because you can see Tarpon, doesn’t mean they are feeding.
DON’T USE LESS THAN AN 8WT FLY OUTFIT
Tarpon look skinny but they are long and offer a ferocious strike and will quickly expose overly light tackle. I would use an 8wt fly outfit and still expect the occasional break off.
USE A SINK TIP FLY LINE
Tarpon usually feed close to the surface. You want your line to keep your fly in the strike zone as long as possible, a sinking tip will do just that. It also lends itself nicely to the slow retrieve style that Tarpon go for.
FOLLOW THE BUBBLES
Tarpon are also referred to as “Bubble Fish” for good reason, their bubbles are striking and obvious. You can use these bubbles as signs for where you should be casting. Notice which direction the bubbles are going in to place a fly in front of the fish and temp them into striking.
With a species as hard hitting, acrobatic, and energetic as Tarpon, losing bites is common. A good ratio is if you land one fish for every four bites. Two of the four probably won’t even be hooked up, then you’ll likely lose one, and land the fourth. Anything above this ratio is a bonus.
RETRIEVE WITH FREQUENT STOPS
A slow retrieve with plenty of stops will generate interest. They like to strike with more purpose on the stops, the more stops, the more likely you will manage to set the hook through their tough jaws.
USE SINKING FLIES WHEN THE SUN IS UP
Tarpon will strike on the surface when the sun isn’t directly on the water. But once the sun is fully up, you will need something to get below the surface a little. Keep the retrieve slow and with plenty of stops, but add a sinking tip with a slowly sinking fly.
KEEP THE ROD TIP TO THE SIDE
Because of the ferocity that Tarpon strike at, straight rods will often lead to a break-off. Keeping your rod tip to the side will allow the strike to be absorbed better and have you losing less fish.
USE A KAYAK INSTEAD OF A BOAT
Tarpon are skittish and even approaching them idling can send them heading for cover. In a kayak, a stealthy approach shouldn’t phase them and keep them rolling at the surface.
They may not make a good table proposition, but Tarpon should be on every fisho’s radar that loves a good fight and an exciting surface strike. For me, chasing Tarpon reminds me of why I got into fishing. They are challenging enough to make the hunt exciting, and offer highlight-reel-worth strikes that make for some impressive viewing.
Do you have any tips for taking Tarpon? Let us know in the comments section below.