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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.


Bass Pro Shops Fort Lauderdale

Stop by and say hello to Capt. Chris Herrera from Palm Coast Fishing as he will be in answering questions and showing inshore rigs that will help you catch more inshore fish at the Fort Lauderdale Bass Pro Shops Feb. 25 and the 26th.

Lure of the week

My go to lure this week has been the white FishBites Extreme Paddle Tail. This past week I have seen the Redfish schooled up real tight chasing mullet and small minnows so I “matched the hatch” to fool the reds into biting.

I rig the Fishbites on a Slayer Inc. Predator jighead in 1/8 oz or 1/4 oz depending on depth I am fishing.

Fish bites come in several different colors but this weeks water clarity called for white. Since its raining as I type this article, I will probably switch to watermelon red flake since the water will be a little darker.

Capt. Chris Herrera

Picking the right hook

Here is a great article by Ron Brooks about hook selection:

Hooks are hooks in most people’s mind. They figure they either need a big one or a small one, depending on the fish they are pursuing. Lots of anglers go though life completely missing the importance of using not only the right size hook, but probably most importantly the right type of hook.

Hook choice depends on several factors. Obviously, the smaller the fish, the smaller the hook required. What most anglers miss is, that line size, fish species, type of bait, and fishing structure play a major role in hook selection.

Have you ever fished next to someone who seemed to be catching three or four fish to your one? Perhaps your fish kept getting off before you got them to the boat, or your line kept hanging on the bottom while your neighbor never hung even once.


It’s not just pure fishing luck that makes the difference. Most of the time it’s the hook choice you make.A thick forged hook is not the right choice. A thin aberdeen wire hook that can penetrate the hard inside of the mouth would be a better choice. A number 1 or 1/0 regular shank aberdeen works very well for these bait stealers.

Hook size is probably the first thing an angler thinks of when buying hooks. Most are smart enough to know which hook is the right size for the fish they are after. Sizes fro most manufacturers range from the very smallest freshwater trout hook at a number 32, to the very largest gamefish hook at 19/0. There is no world or industry standard method of measuring hooks, but here in the US, the measures go from the smallest size 32 (which is barely large enough to hold between two fingers) and count down. As the number decreases, the size increases all the way down to a number 1 hook. At this point the number changes to a designation of “aughts” or zeroes. A 1/0 (pronounced “one aught”) hook is the next larger size to a number 1. A 2/0 is larger still, and this numbering scheme goes as high as 19/0.

The size breakdown from smallest to largest looks like this:32, 30, 28, 26, 24, 22, 20, 18, 16, 14, 12, 11, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2, 1, 1/0, 2/0, 3/0, 4/0, 5/0, 6/0, 7/0, 8/0, 9/0, 10/0, 11/0, 12/0, 13/0, 14/0, 15/0, 16/0, 17/0, 18/0, and 19/0

All of these hooks come in a short, regular, or long shank version. The shank of the hook is the part between the eye of the hook and the bend.

 Captain Chris’s  Hook choices.

Here are the type of hooks I use on a daily basis  for North East Florida saltwater inshore fish.

 The Circle hook:


Daiichi  D85Z Circle Wide

 Perhaps the best innovation in hooks to come along, circle hooks promote healthy catch and release. The design of the hook itself, when used properly, prevents fish from being hooked in the gut. Many anglers have a problem using these hooks because they require no hook set. If you do try to set the hook, it will generally come out of the mouth of the fish. These hooks are designed to move to the corner of the fish’s mouth and set themselves as the fish swims away from you. Anglers feel a bite and simply begin reeling, slowly at first, then faster as the hook gets set. (by Ron Brooks)

 The size of of Circle hook I use depends on size of bait I am using but the most common is a 1/0 Daiichi D85Z Circle wide. This hook will work fine with medium shrimp, select shrimp and finger mullet.

 Circle hookis best used for: Redfish, Trout, Snook, Tarpon, Jacks, Bluefish


The J-Hook:

Daiichi D16Z  Octopus wide, Bleeding bait hook

The Daiichi  1/0 D16Z Octopus wide replaces the 1/0 circle hookfor those anglers that cannot resist setting the hook or when fishing for certain species where a circle hook will not work as good. (example: Sheephead, flounder)

Octopus Wide (J-Hook) is best used for: Sheephead, Flounder, Redfish, Snook, Trout

The Jighead:


RipTide Pro Jigheads

One of the most versatile  hooks is a Jighead. You can use a jighead with shrimp, mullet, mud minnows, cut bait and soft plastics for all inshore species that are targeted in deep or shallow water.