The heat is here! As we transition into summer, expect to adjust your targeted species, fishing patterns, and techniques. For the most part, bay fishing will be the highlight of June. As water temperatures creep towards 90 degrees, deeper water will be the key for a successful day on the water. Tarpon, sharks, Spanish mackerel, kingfish, cobia, mangrove snapper, and grouper can all be found inside the bay this time of year.
Tarpon will take the spotlight for my charters this month. As we approach this month’s full moon, expect to see large numbers of fish staged up from Egmont Key to the Skyway Bridge. Some of the best Tarpon fishing will take place on the afternoon/evening outgoing tides. The stronger tides around the full and new moons, more commonly known as “hill tides”, meaning a lot of water will be dumping out of the bay, will flush bait fish and crabs that the Tarpon will feed ferociously on. To find Tarpon, pick an area to survey and spend some time either on the trolling motor or idle along with your outboard and look for rolling fish. If you have a decent bottom machine, these monsters can also be found keeping an eye on the screen as well. Once you have located some fish, position yourself up current of the pod and either anchor, drift, or use your trolling motor to keep your bait in the strike zone. I have spoiled myself over the last five years by having the Rhodan GPS Anchor trolling motor on my boats. With the touch of a button, I can keep my boat in position and stay on the fish without worrying about the struggles of setting and pulling a standard anchor. This gives me a quicker response time to chase a hooked fish or make small moves to keep my clients in the strike zone.
A free-lined live crab, threadfin, or pinfish will be the bait of choice fishing the stronger tides. During the weaker or slack tides, I prefer cut bait on the bottom. My favorite cut bait for Tarpon is mullet. Ladyfish, threadfins, pinfish, or even large blue crab is also a great alternative. For the standard live bait setup, I use 5-6 ft of 60lb fluorocarbon leader paired with a 5/O-6/O circle hook. If a little weight is needed, I will add some small pinch weights. More often than not – just a leader and hook is perfect. When fishing on the bottom, I basically use the same rig but depending on the “chunk” size and current, I will add a small egg sinker to gently keep the bait on the bottom.
Once hooked up to a fish. Remember to stay calm and take your time. These are big fish and will take some time to get to the boat.