By Rick Grassett
Tarpon fishing will take off this month as migratory fish arrive along our beaches. Also look for Spanish mackerel, tripletail, cobia and false albacore (little tunny) in the coastal gulf.
Snook will move into passes and the surf, and reds and trout should feed heavily on shallow flats as baitfish become more plentiful. Trout, blues, Spanish mackerel and more should be good options on deep grass flats.
Resident tarpons are usually the first to show up as they make their way out of rivers and creeks. As migratory tarpons start to arrive this month, we should have schools of tarpon moving both north and south along our beaches. Early-arriving tarpon may be more aggressive due to less fishing pressure early in the season. Set up in their line of travel and wait for tarpon schools to move past and cast a DOA Baitbuster, a 4-inch CAL Shad, or a live crab or pinfish to them.
Once you’ve seen the first school of fish, you can concentrate your efforts in that “lane” since other schools should be following the same route. When they aren’t showing well on the surface, a live bait under a float in their travel lane may score. I’ve also done well blind casting a DOA Baitbuster or Swimming Mullet when there wasn’t much showing on the surface. Be quiet and use your electric trolling motor sparingly. Even though your 4-stroke outboard sounds quiet, it is no substitute for an electric trolling motor. Give other anglers at least several hundred yards of space and keep in mind that fish can be moving either north or south, so setting up too close to another angler may affect their flow of fish.
Fly anglers should do well with a variety of baitfish or crab fly patterns fished on floating or intermediate sink tip fly lines. Staking out or anchoring in shallow water on their travel route should result in some shots at fish. The best angle is a “head-on” shot, followed by a quartering shot. A perpendicular shot may work if it’s timed perfectly, although casting too far beyond their line of travel will usually spook them. I use a push pole with an occasional assist from a trolling motor if I need to adjust my position to make a cast.
You may find pompano, bluefish and Spanish mackerel on the same deep grass flats where trout are plentiful. They can be targeted in the same way as trout, but you may need to use wire or heavy fluorocarbon leader when toothy fish are around. You may also find Spanish and king mackerel, little tunny, cobia and tripletail in the coastal gulf. Keep your eyes open for surface activity such as diving birds, breaking fish or baitfish being forced out of the water which could indicate the presence of mackerel, blues or little tunny. Medium spinning tackle and 8- or 9-weight fly tackle should be heavy enough, although your tarpon spinning and fly tackle is not too heavy for cobia. Look for cobia either swimming on the surface or around navigational markers or buoys. I have also found cobia swimming with schools of tarpon before. .
This is one of my favorite months of the year. If battling a big tarpon isn’t for you, you should have plenty to do on both shallow and deep grass flats or in the coastal gulf. I’ll be spending my time targeting tarpon in the coastal gulf unless conditions won’t allow it. There is something about casting a fly to a giant fish in shallow water!