Prime Tarpon Time at St. Simons Island

Summer vacation might be coming to a close but the Tarpon fishing is just getting warmed up. We know that it’s time for the kids to head back to school but we’re thankful for a summer that brought us some great customers, decent weather, and some amazing fishing opportunities.

Now that summer vacation is almost over, we’re setting our sights on one of our favorite times of year; Tarpon season. It’s time to get out there early, catch some Pogies, and put some giant silver dinosaurs in the air. You’ll never see a bunch of fishing guides happier to get up and go fishing than you will when the Tarpon fishing is on… and it certainly has been.

I want to make a couple of points about Tarpon fishing. We’ll start with what to expect and then I want to offer a little bit of information for those of you that have messaged me about how to rig up for Tarpon here in Georgia.

What to Expect on Your St. Simons Island Tarpon Fishing Trip

Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat. We’re not going to land a Tarpon on every trip. No one is. If they give you a Tarpon guarantee, you can bet your last dollar that they are not being totally honest. We expect to land a Tarpon on about 4 out of 5 trips unless there is some kind of weird nature stuff happening at the time. And “weird nature stuff” does indeed happen from time to time.

If you are booking a Tarpon trip, know that you are willingly pursuing one of the most challenging and sought after fish in the ocean. If you want a guaranteed fish that jumps and pulls hard, you’re looking for a shark trip. Tarpon fishing is for those that accept the challenge and understand that when the mission is accomplished, the memories made will be worth the risk.

Tarpon fights can range from 5 minutes to over an hour depending on how big and how spirited the fish is. We’ll do our best to coach you through it and give you some pointers to help you end the fight as quickly as possible. The earlier we can end the fight, the more time we have to hook up with more fish and the more likely the fish will be able to survive after it is released.

We will release every Tarpon and we don’t take them out of the water. If we were to remove these fish from the water, the chances of them surviving are slim. We are more than happy to leader the fish and hold it in the water for a picture.

There is a lot to do when we’re Tarpon fishing. We have baits to change out, lines to uncross, and we are constantly moving around to make sure that we are ready for a bite. We want you to be a part of the experience, but if all of us are standing around in the cockpit, we can’t get the job done as well as we should. Feel free to help clear lines or whatever else needs to be done, but when we’re waiting on a bite and working the spread we need room to work so we can do what it takes to hook the fish and keep it hooked.

A Few Pointers for Rigging for Tarpon

A few folks have asked me about rigging for Tarpon and if you ask a dozen guides you’ll get a dozen different answers. I’ll tell you how I rig and why and you can take it from there.

Rod and Reel – 7′ Shimano Tallus 50-100 Heavy, Fast with Avet MXL spooled with 50 pound Power Pro

Leader – Primarily 80 pound monofilament but sometimes 60 lb fluoro for clear water conditions.

Hook – 6/0 Owner Aki J hook

With this set up and material I will usually fish a 5 rod spread consisting of 3 float lines and 2 free lines OR 2 float lines and 3 free lines. Some people will use a bottom rig, but I find that the overwhelming majority of my bites come from the surface or near the surface and I want to maximize the number of baits I have in my most productive depth zone. Exceptions are made if I am either fishing very deep water, or hoping to catch Bull Redfish in the mix.

To start all of my rigs I will have a snap swivel tied directly to the end of the mainline. The float lines will have a 3 inch oval float pegged onto the mainline and pushed down on top of the snap swivel. This will keep the mainline from getting twisted in the swivel when the bait swims in circles.

The leader is typically about 5 feet in length and will have a loop either crimped or made with a surgeons loop on one end. This is for the snap swivel to clip in to. The other end will have a hook tied with an improved clinch knot. Clip the leaders in the snap swivels and you are ready to fish.

I have learned the hard way that a loop knot of any kind on the hook will result in a lot of missed fish. The hook needs to be tied straight to the leader.

Once you get a bite let the fish load the rod and then set the hook like you’re mad at it!

I don’t really want to get into Tarpon spots specifically. The biggest thing to know is that Tarpon eat Pogies and if you find a lot of Pogies, there are probably a lot of Tarpon nearby too. You just have to figure out where the bait, and therefore the fish, is going and get your spread out. There are plenty of people that just ride until they find some charter boats and then they just fish around them. That’s not fishing. That’s guide hunting and it won’t make you a better angler. Trust me… find the bait, watch the birds, watch the fish. It might take you a couple of season to get a good feel for it but you’ll be so much better off than the guide hunters because you’ll be able to find your own fish.

Tight lines!

Capt. TJ Cheek

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