Florida panhandle's best fishing

IN SEARCH OF TARPON

By Frank Sargeant 

           

The problem with sight-fishing is that you have to see ‘em before you can catch ‘em. And for those not used to seeing tarpon, it can be surprisingly difficult, even at the height of the season—which is just now. 
Actually, seeing tarpon can be ridiculously easy at times—as at Boca Grande where they tend to roll in schools of a hundred, and where one would have to be totally deprived of sight to miss the six-foot-long, chrome silver fish splashing in the sun.  But it’s not anywhere nearly that easy most of the time. Amazingly, for the size of the fish, they can be very difficult to spot.

Part of the difficulty is that tarpon are not always on the move. And a still tarpon is a hard tarpon to see. On dead calm days May through August, they sometimes lie at the surface with just the tip of fin and tail showing, tiny rectangles barely an inch above the surface, showing no more evidence than a nervous redfish of their presence.  And at times, there’s not even that to see. Some days, the fish seem to drowse in deeper water, rising rarely to gulp in some surface air, coming almost straight up, then sinking nearly straight back down. The best evidence, on these days, is the release of air bubbles from their mouth on occasion—the stream of silver bubbles, just like the exhalation of a SCUBA diver, marks the location of the fish.

Tarpon also tend to lay up in black water bays occasionally at this time of year, and fish in these backwaters take on the color or the water; the back is closer to black than to the pale green or greenish tan the fish display in the clear water along the beach, and their natural camo makes them even tougher to see. Most experts who learn to locate these fish look for them over sand patches, where their dark bodies stand out like big black shadows.

Tarpon along the beach usually reveal themselves because they are usually on the move, and moving tarpon usually roll every hundred yards or so. The trick when the movers are spotted is to get in front of them, and then to shut down the outboard and the trolling motor and let the fish swim into casting range.  Chasing the fish, on the other hand, rarely results in bite. There are lots of boats after beach tarpon because they’re usually easy to spot, and after the first hour of daylight, most of the fish are on alert for anyone trying to sneak up on them from behind.  Some West Coast guides have devised a method of pulling live threadfins in front of tarpon that he says results in lots of hookups, even when other techniques are not working.  The trick is to keep the threads just ahead of the lead fish on a long line. With the tempting bait in their faces for an extended period, sooner or later one of the fish is going to eat.

Some of the flyrod experts who fish the deep flats off Homosassa have had good luck by setting up on the “bomb holes” there, deeper areas with white sand bottom, typically surrounded by grass flats 6 to 8 feet deep.

Anglers Urged to Support Billfish Conservation Act with Legislators
With the passage of the Billfish Conservation Act in the Natural Resources Committee of the House of Representatives on August 1, 2012, the U.S. is close to taking a strong stand in the conservation of one of the ocean's most magnificent apex predators. Known formally as H.R. 2706, the bill received overwhelming bi-partisan support in Committee - a good sign for billfish everywhere. But there is more work to be done to protect the future of these imperiled species.

Now recreational anglers must urge House leadership to schedule the Billfish Conservation Act for a speedy passage, and encourage the Senate Commerce Committee to schedule a hearing for the bill as soon as possible. Keep America Fishing has made it easy to send a message to Members of Congress pressing them to support the Billfish Conservation Act. Simply visit http://keepamericafishing.salsalabs.com/o/6394/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=4039 and enter a ZIP code, and letters are automatically generated to local Representatives and Senate Members.

"Now is the time to tell leadership in Washington that they have an opportunity to make an important impact with recreational anglers," said International Game Fish Association President Rob Kramer. "This bill is a perfect example of how conservation legislation can result in enormous benefits to the economy while sustaining imperiled species at no cost to American taxpayers. This important step is great news for recreational anglers and for people working in tourism, sportfishing and marine businesses."
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