Monday, July 8, 2013

Pine Island Fishing Report: Live Baiting Tarpon Off Matlacha

Angler Doug Cole with a 50 pound fish caught just north of the island.

July is usually my favorite time of year to fly fish for tarpon thanks to the calm winds and blue skies.  Well, we're a week into the month and none of those conditions have materialized.  We've had a constant breeze out of the east and our regular afternoon thunderstorms decided to hit us in the mornings most of last week.  Those two things together mean very few rolling fish on the flats.  Throw in our usual summertime dark water and sight casting at tarpon becomes almost impossible. 

So that means it's time to pull out the spinning gear, load up the baitwell, and take a quick trip to the deeper water around the Matlacha drawbridge.  Toss a live pinfish under there first thing in the morning or late at night (especially after midnight) and getting a tarpon in the air is no problem.  Later on in the morning the oyster bar to the north of the island will also hold plenty of tarpon that aren't necessarily hungry but won't turn down an easy meal. 

You can either free line these baits or put them under a float but use at least 20# braid and a 50# fluorocarbon leader for these tarpon.  The water is especially warm right now and it's very easy to kill one if you fight it too long on lighter gear.  Also, be sure to remember that it's against the law to take any tarpon over 40" long out of the water, even for a quick photo.  That's now considered possession of the fish and requires a $50 tag to do so.  You can hoist the head up like we did in the photo above and then put the boat in gear to get water moving over the tarpon's gills.  The fish will swim off to fight again and you'll avoid a ticket for slapping a big fish on your deck and posting the photo online.