Saturday, May 17, 2014

Yes, The Tarpon Are Here But...

My buddy Forrest with a nice 5 pound tarpon caught earlier this week in a very narrow Pine Island creek.

If you want to catch one on a fly you've really got your work cut out for you right now.  The wind has been kicking my ass all month, blowing at a steady 15 to 20 knots just about every day.  I'm starting to feel like I'm back in Key West again where this kind of weather is the norm for tarpon season, (although they're getting hammered by it even worse than usual.)  Trying to throw a fly at the big fish in Charlotte Harbor during a small craft advisory is borderline impossible and just a bit dangerous at the same time.  I've basically written that off during the last few weeks. 

Fortunately we've got plenty of mangrove bays and creeks in both Matlacha Pass and Pine Island Sound where we can hide from the wind, and some of them hold a good amount of baby tarpon, too.  The biggest drawback is that these are very tight quarters and working a fly rod in a 20 foot wide creek is just as tricky as casting into a 20 knot wind.  This is another example of why learning the double haul is essential for anyone who fishes the salt. 

Just finding these creek-dwelling tarpon is also a challenge and no, I won't give away where we caught the one in the photo.  I'm definitely not only guide who knows about it but finding these spots on your own is half the fun.  Spend some time with a nautical chart and on Google Earth and you'll discover countless places way back in the mangroves that are both out of the wind and surprisingly accessible if you've got the right boat. 

That last sentence is very important.  Knowing both the tides and the draft of your vessel is crucial when exploring our back bays.  You definitely DO NOT want to get stuck in the mangroves after sundown this time of year. This is why I tell everyone new to SW Florida that the ideal first boat for Pine Island is either a kayak or a Gheenoe.  Getting into a hidden tarpon spot is a blast but getting back out again will let you keep half your blood supply.