Tarpon Fishing Season: How to Target Tarpon in Tampa Bay (3 Tips)

March 25, 2020

Tarpon, aka the Silver King, are one of the most prestigious and challenging gamefish to target in the Tampa Bay area. This is because they’re a large powerful fish that can perform acrobatic leaps out of the water. In addition, tarpon make far runs and go toe-to-toe with some of the heaviest tackle. Here are some tips and tricks for targeting Tarpon.

3 Tips for How to Target Tarpon in Tampa Bay:

1. When to fish for Tarpon:

Large Tarpon are a migratory species that spend their springs and summers moving up the coast of Florida once the waters warm to their comfort zone. While they are present in the area from April- August, the peak time to target them is in May and June.

This is because it isn’t uncommon to see hundreds, if not thousands, of fish off our gulf coast beaches at this time. There is also a healthy population of juvenile tarpon in our area ranging from 5-40 pounds. These tarpon can be found year round from inside residential ponds and canals, to backwaters, river mouths, and open bays.

2. Where to target:

Tarpon can typically be found moving parallel to the beaches, either travelling in a northern or southern line. Because of this, it can make it quite easy to see their large bodies over the white sand. This works especially well when they are in larger groups.

Positioning yourself in a spot where there may be a sandbar or channel edge can be quite productive as well, as they will use these contours as a guidance of where to swim. Tarpon can also stage in channels and passes to rest when not travelling down the beach. Pay attention to what we refer to as “rolling” fish as well.

Tarpon have the special ability to breathe air due to a special air bladder they have. Notice the tarpon gulping air from the surface next time you fish. By observing rolling fish in the distance, you can get an idea of the direction fish may be moving too.

3. What to use:

Generally, the most popular way to target these fish is with a 7-8’ heavy or extra-heavy spinning rod paired with a 6000-8000 size reel. Live bait is also a very common method, as you are simply offering their natural forage. For example, mullet, shrimp, crabs, and threadfins are all plentiful and easy to find in our waters, and favorites for Tarpon.

When using artificial lures, swimbaits (both hard and soft body baitfish imitations), various artificial shrimp, and soft plastics, are very productive as well.

Anglers will also attempt to catch Tarpon with a fly rod in the 10-12 weight size range. This includes a matching reel that holds at least 250 yards of 30lb dacron backing. Anglers also most commonly opt for a floating, weight-forward, fly line, with the addition of a 10-12 foot leader that has a 50-60 pound bite tippet.  The most popular flies for tarpon are black and purple, chartreuse, and tan, tied on hooks ranging from 1/0-3/0.

Here at Bill Jackson’s we can be sure to outfit you with whatever tackle you’ll need on your next encounter with these gamefish.