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Juvenile Tarpon Tactics Palm Coast/Flager Beach

Juvenile Tarpon

 

When you hear the word “Tarpon” the images that come to mind are the 100 plus pound Silver Kings leaping out of the water thrashing about trying to free themselves. Tarpon are not born as these massive strong fish that test our equipment and angling skills but are born as a small larvae that grow in the back water estuaries for the first few years of their lives till their big enough to join the migration. While maturing in the backwaters these “juveniles” can be caught on light tackle, although not tackle bruisers they will pull and display a nice aerial display like no other.

 

 

Fishing for juvenile tarpon is most affective through out the summer months although they inhabit our northeast coastal region year round. What separates tarpon from other species is its ability to live in low oxygenated waters that contributes to the tarpon “roll’. During summer months the warm waters and low oxygen during low light conditions get tarpon rolling and make it a sight fishing opportunity. It’s commonly said rolling tarpon are happy tarpon and for every tarpon you see roll there are 10 below it, now these statements might be true sometimes but not all the time because I know through personal frustrating experience that not all tarpon that roll are on the feed.

There are certain factors that I noticed that would turn a tarpon with a small appetite into a feeding machine and that is weather and bait. I prefer to tangle with the silver king during lower light conditions in the morning or evening over bright sunny skies in the mid afternoon but with the afternoon thunderstorms Florida is known for, an epic bite can turn on like a light switch when the dark clouds appear and you can smell the rain.

 

 

 When it comes to juvenile tarpon tackle, your standard inshore gear will suffice, I personally prefer 7ft. medium heavy  rod with an 3000 series reel lined with 15lb. Power Pro braided line . My first step in rigging is attaching a 36 inch piece of 20-30lb Fluorocarbon leader with a improved Albright knot or any other leader to line knot you like to use. The next step is my shock leader that is usually a 20-inch piece of 40lb. Fluorocarbon bite tippet that ends with a 1/0 Daiichi octopus hook that is snelled.

 

 

Know that you have your rods and gear in check, you are on the spot and the fish are rolling, what know? If live bait is your thing, I would go with a large shrimp, I buy the biggest ones I can find. The reason I like shrimp over any other bait for juvenile tarpon is shrimp do not have the tendency to flee as quickly as a mullet or other baitfish. My second go to setup if large shrimp are scarce is a big mud minnow under a popping cork.

Tarpon have different styles of rolls and according to how a tarpon rolls is how you will present the bait. If a tarpon rolls in a very slow and lazy manner where he sits high in the water column in the same spot for several seconds a cast that is about a foot in front would be the best presentation. Now I don’t mean to literally hit him on the head but a few inches in front of him will normally do the job. When tarpon roll a little faster I choose to lead them by 5 ft. or so in the direction they are heading. Normally with a faster roll a tarpon will propel himself his body length within a second so leading him by his body length will insure your not casting on his back. And finally when a tarpon comes to the surface real fast and kicks hard that means they are sitting on the bottom and I usually add some split shot to my offerings and cast some where in the vicinity of the fish.

 

 

After the cast I will let out a few more feet of line and raise the rod tip to take most of the slack out, once slack is out I will slowly lower it letting the shrimp sink to the tarpon’s level and wait for the take. The bite will normally come within the first 5 seconds or so and if no take is felt I will slowly retrieve the shrimp back to the skiff.

 

 

 I always keep the bail open and ready to fire when I see a tarpon and again once the proper cast is made I count down to the take 1 one thousand, 2 one thousand etc… and then I feel the shrimp start to kick and squirm knowing that its about to become a meal and then it happens, the line goes tight. The first 5 seconds of the fight are the most important, as line starts to peel off the reel and at that moment I will start to tighten the drag and pay careful attention to “ bow to the king” as most juvenile tarpon will become air borne several times. The rest is up to you now that you’re hooked up and the fight is on, most juveniles will quit with in minutes or lay on their side for the release.