It’s quite possibly my favorite part of the season when the Tarpon really get into a pattern. While fishing for Tarpon certainly isn’t easy and you won’t get every one that you hook to the boat, it still gets my blood pumping. We’ve had a great start to this year’s Tarpon season and we’ve also had some stellar days with bonus Jack Crevalles. The Shark fishing is wide open as it should be as well.
Let’s Start with the Tarpon Fishing
This is all we really want to do this time of year. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea as it requires some patience and it’s all catch and release, but if you put a Tarpon in the air and don’t like it, you should see a doctor to make sure you still have a pulse. I’ll do my best to explain how we go about fishing for Tarpon so that those of you that are interested in booking a trip will know what to expect, and those reading this to learn more about fishing for Tarpon in Georgia might learn a bit.
We’re going to start our day catching bait. We are primarily looking for Pogies (Menhaden) or Mullet. We need to find some nice big baits for the livewell and preferably enough to have some chum as well. Some people ask why we don’t catch our bait before picking up our clients and the reason is that we usually find the bait on our way to where we intend to fish. Most of the time it’s a 10 minute stop and we’re on our way.
The Tarpon usually follow a pattern of moving further offshore with the outgoing tide and then they head back inshore with the incoming tide. We are typically going to set up on bars, sloughs, and rips that they are known to cross as they follow the bait with the tide. The idea is to get ahead of the fish and have your baits waiting when they get there. Sometimes we will see fish and set up near them and chum them into our spread as well.
In most cases we’re going to fish a four rod spread consisting of one or two baits on the surface under a float, one on the bottom, and a free line or a line with a small weight to fish the middle of the water column. I like to fish two float lines, one with a small weight, and one on the bottom as I historically catch more fish on the float. We’re using 125 to 150 pound test mono leaders around 5 feet long with a large circle hook.
When the baits are out we leave the rods in the rod holder. This is the best bet to let the circle hook do its thing. Unless the fish eats the bait and then runs toward the boat there is no reason to pick the rod up until he is down and tight. Once he’s on, it’s time to grab the rod and go to work.
We also keep a pitch rod ready with an artificial bait to sight cast at passing fish.
Shark Fishing Around Shrimp Boats
The shark bite has been outstanding lately and for those that want to forego Tarpon fishing in favor of just targeting larger sharks, we’re going to more than likely fish behind the shrimp boats. The way we do it is very simple.
We will most likely have a bonito with us to cut into strips for bait, although we will also use live pogies if they are readily available.
We’re going to find the boat that has the most birds and the most dolphins following them, pull up on the windward side of their prop wash and put two lines out. We usually start with one float line and one free line. Once again, both rods go in the rod holder (if we even get them all the way out before we get a bite) and we wait on a strike. You’ll normally have one on within 5 minutes and if we don’t we move on and set up another drift.
My Favorite, the Jack Crevalle
Jack Crevalle, or “Jacks”, are considered a trash fish by many people because they offer no table quality. Yet, anglers will pay huge amounts of money to fly across the world to catch a GT, which is nearly the same thing. Personally, Jacks are my favorite fish to catch in Georgia.
On most days they are a target of opportunity. We’re not going to promise a trip dedicated just to catching Jacks, but we keep tackle ready at all times because you never know when you’re going to run across a big school. Sometimes we will notice that they are staying in the same area day after day and go look for them specifically.
You’ll notice them most of the time by seeing the wake they create when they are schooling just below the surface and often times as you get closer you’ll see fins sticking out of the water. There might be 10 fish in a school and there might be 200. We try to set the boat up so that the fish will pass just within casting range without getting right in front of them. They’ll only tolerate so much pressure before they sound and disappear.
Once we’re set up we’ll throw anything from a large popping plug to a big soft plastic at them. Most of the time they are going to dog pile whatever hits the water in a very violent way. It isn’t uncommon for them to knock a plug 10 feet into the air. Once you’re hooked up, you better pack a lunch because they are bruisers and fights can last as long as 45 minutes sometimes.
What About Inshore Fishing?
Eh. The inshore fishing has been OK but not great. The water is really hot so the bite hasn’t been all that good and when we’re getting on good bites a lot of the fish are small. There will be some days that the fishing is good, but this time of year it’s not going to happen every day. In September it should really pick up along with…
The Bull Redfish
Last year we were already catching a few Bull Reds while we were Tarpon fishing. We can only hope that we get an early start again this year. It sure was nice to catch 10 or 15 big Reds while were Tarpon fishing from time to time.
However, in September we’ll start to really target the big Redfish, specifically later in the month. The run will peak in October and usually last into the first week or two of November. Similar to Tarpon fishing, we fish a 4 rod spread, but instead of putting some baits on the surface, we put all 4 on the bottom.
For those that prefer sport over quantity, we can even cast some soft plastics or chunk baits under a popping cork in the right conditions. Peak Bull Redfish season is filling up already so if you want to book a charter it is best to do it sooner rather than later.
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