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Tarpon Season Report (May, June, and mid July)

Updated: Mar 15

Tarpon Season means long days waiting on big fish to swim by. Lots of time fishing and long nights spent tying flies, leaders, logging days and thinking about Tarpon.

This season went well. All of my anglers had plenty of fish to try to feed. There were very few slow days from my first trip in May through mid July. Anglers prepared to take advantage of these opportunities were well rewarded with happy fish and flying silver. Fish swam well for the entire season. We encountered big groups, small groups, singles, and daisy chains across the beaches. It is important to understand how the fish are swimming and what presentation will be most effective when you encounter the fish doing different things. Remember, the fish will not swim far off their path to take your fly or lure, you have to get it in front of them without it moving at them, or suddenly appearing too close to them to get a bite.

Fly choice was a big deal based on water conditions as well as reading the fish. We experienced lots of flat calm, clear water days that led to fish being extra aware of their surroundings. This scenario called for long leaders, big leads, and extra small flies. Many of our eats on these days came on flies that wouldn't be out of the norm to throw at a redfish or speckled trout. As the season progressed, we got into a typical summer sea breeze weather pattern that put some chop on the water. This allowed anglers to upsize their fly a bit while also being able to cast a little closer to the fish.

In both situations, pay close attention to what the fish are doing while you can see them. Don't chase the group of fish you can see. Watch them from a distance, set yourself up in an advantageous place to ambush the next group that will almost certainly take the same path. Chasing fish on a trolling motor or your combustion motor will just make them aware of your presence. It will likely ruin the bite not only for you but for the next few guys who might have an opportunity to feed those fish as well. My anglers watched numerous boats run straight to a school, only for the fish to sink to the bottom, or change their path and not eat anything coming down the line. While these fish live in a noisy environment, they can be very in tune to things that are not supposed to be in their lane of travel. Trolling motors running next to them is definitely one of those things. There's always another group of fish, and most times, watching will teach you infinitely more than making a bad cast into a spooked group of fish.

While the numbers of fish were good, the numbers of recreational boaters may have been even higher. It's important and helpful to give your local fisher some space as to not ruin both theirs and your opportunity at these awesome fish. It was pretty routine every day to experience boats running within casting distance of us. When you're out on the water please take a wide approach to anyone fishing and give them plenty of space when possible. While some of our ambush points run close to commonly used channels which forces you closer to fishing boats, it's still appropriate to run the channel and not behind, through, or over top of fishing boats. A little courtesy goes a long way and you never know when you might need someone's help on the water. If you haven't experienced that day, trust me, it's coming. If you aren't sure what someone is doing, give them space to operate and it's okay to sit and watch from a distance to see how they are moving and you can often figure out how to move by without getting in their way.

A handful of my anglers chose to spend parts or most of their day chasing snook, redfish, and speckled trout as well. The Redfish bite was really good on the higher edges of the tides. These fish will not travel far or actively chase baits in the dog days of summer. High tides allow them to drift into safer areas that provide shade, cooler water, and safety from predators without having to move a lot. Trimming the tail from a pilchard or pinfish will pin them to the bottom and allow the redfish to eat without much effort. These redfish spend almost all summer in the upper ranges of their liveable water temperatures. When redfishing - especially when practicing catch and release - keep the fight times down by really pulling on the fish. Keep the fish wet as much as possible while handling. I often leave the fish in my landing net or in the livewell while my anglers stage a picture. This keeps the fish from spending too much time out of the water and lessens the amount of time the fish needs to be revived after landing it.

Snook cruised the beach in good numbers especially near passes. We earned plenty of shots at cruising fish headed to and from their staging areas. Getting a baitfish in the right place is the key to feeding these fish cruising. Get their attention, then move a fly hastily away without getting it too far away from the fish too fast will get you a bite.

I have some availability late in the month of July and throughout August for some night fishing opportunities. Then fall patterns will start to show up with happy redfish and snook back in the creeks.

Grab yourself a day and let's have a great sight fishing on the Nature Coast!

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