Tarpon Plentiful in Sarasota
<p>Anglers fishing the coastal gulf off Sarasota with me on my Action Craft flats skiff the Snook Fin-Addict, out of CB's Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key, jumped several tarpon on live crabs, landed one on a fly and had lots of shots during the past couple of weeks. Tarpon schools increased dramatically in size and numbers as we headed towards a new moon and ate well, however they were very finicky as we headed away from the moon. We also caught and released trout, bluefish and a nice red on DOA baits on a trip in Sarasota Bay.
Fly angler Hal Lutz, from Parrish, FL, fished the coastal gulf off Sarasota with me on Monday, 5/14. It was slow to start, but he had numerous shots at tarpon on the outgoing tide. On the last cast of the day, Hal hooked a hot fish on a black Lefty's Deceiver! After a couple of smoking runs and numerous jumps, he got the fish back on the fly line and under control. He had the fish, an estimated 90-pounder, alongside the boat in about 40 minutes. Often fish in this size category can be more ornery than a larger fish.
Bill Moore and sons, Mark and Scott, all from IL, and his brother, Chris Moore, from OR fished Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 5/16, 17 and 18 with Capt. Andy Cotton and me. There were plenty of fish on Wednesday morning, 5/16, although conditions weren't great-rainy and cloudy. Chris and Scott jumped a couple of tarpon on live crabs and Chris brought a big girth fish to the boat with Capt. Andy. Mark jumped a large tarpon while fishing with me and fought her for more than an hour that day.
Storms and west winds on Wednesday night turned to rough seas in the coastal gulf and more rain on Thursday morning, 5/17. However, we fished Stephens Point and near Buttonwood Harbor in Sarasota Bay and caught and released trout, bluefish and jacks on CAL jigs with shad tails and DOA Deadly Combos. Bill ended the day with a nice red on a CAL jig with a shad tail out of a huge school of mullet in skinny water near Buttonwood Harbor. Mark jumped a pair of tarpon on live crabs with me on Friday, 5/18. One of them put on a great show with multiple jumps close to the boat. Scott landed a 90-pound tarpon on a live crab while fishing with Capt. Andy also on 5/18.
Tarpon fishing was tough last week. We had lots of shots at tarpon with a fly on Monday, 5/21 and Thursday, 5/24. We had a few leans and follows, but no bites. Anglers using spinning tackle on a trip on Wednesday, 5/23 also had lots of shots at tarpon and a bite on a live crab, but no hook up. We had a new moon on Monday, 5/21 which is when tarpon form into large schools as they prepare to spawn. We observed and cast to "daisy chaining" schools of tarpon and saw small males free jumping, both activities are spawning behavior. Often their main focus is migrating to spawn and they can be indifferent to lures, flies and even live bait although some may eat a well placed offering.
There are a few things that may up your odds when tarpon are finicky. When casting lures or flies to tarpon schools, let the lead fish pass your lure or fly and move it in front of the followers further back in the school. Fish further back in the school usually feel more secure and willing to eat. Also, if you spook the lead fish she will take all the other fish with her. Live bait anglers should leave their baits in the water on the same line where fish are spotted rolling. When large tarpon schools are traveling they are often strung out in a long line and are moving fast. There may be a lot more tarpon still coming on the same line where you see a fish roll, so be patient and wait for a bite.
As we head further away from last Monday's new moon, tarpon should be in a better mood and eat more. Look for schools of tarpon at first light in the morning in deeper areas along beaches. Spin anglers should hook up with live crabs, pinfish, DOA 4" shrimp, Baitbusters and Swimming Mullet. Fly anglers should do best with baitfish fly patterns such as Lefty's Deceiver and EP flies in dark colors fished on intermediate sink tip fly lines.
Capt. Rick Grassett
FFF Certified Fly Casting Instructor
Orvis- Endorsed Outfitter Guide
CB's Saltwater Outfitters-2011 Orvis Outfitter of the Year
Snook Fin-Addict Guide Service, Inc.
www.flyfishingflorida.net and www.snookfin-addict.com
Mark Moore's Sarasota tarpon jump while fishing with Capt. Rick Grassett.
Bill Moore's Sarasota Bay CAL shad red caught and released while fishing with Capt. Rick Grassett.
About The Author: Captain Rick Grassett
Company: Snook Fin-Addict Guide Service, Inc.
Area Reporting: Soutwest Florida
Bio: Capt. Rick Grassett, owner of Snook Fin-Addict Guide Service, Inc., is a full time fishing guide and outdoor writer based in Sarasota, FL. He has been guiding since 1990 and is an Orvis Endorsed Outfitter fly fishing guide at CB’s Saltwater Outfitters in Sarasota. Specializing in fishing with flies and lures on light spinning tackle, Capt. Rick fishes the bays, back country and coastal gulf waters from Tampa Bay to Charlotte Harbor in his 18’ Action Craft flats boat. He is a Federation of Fly Fishers certified fly casting instructor. Destination fishing trips are another specialty of Snook Fin-Addict Guide Service. Capt. Rick has lead groups of fly anglers to remote fishing locations around the world. Crane Meadow Lodge, MT, Los Roques, Venezuela, Andros Island Bonefish Club and Bonefish Bay Club in the Bahamas are several destinations where he has hosted groups in the past. Capt. Rick is a field editor for Saltwater Angler magazine and a monthly columnist for the Tampa Tribune. He has written articles for The Fisherman magazine and Orvis News. In addition to writing for these publications, he has been featured in articles in Florida Sportsman, Sportfishing, The Fisherman and Fly Fishing in Saltwater magazines. Capt. rick's web site, www.snookfin-addict.com features weekly fishing reports, current photos and and monthly fishing forecasts. He also maintains a second website that is specific to fly fishing and fly casting instruction, www.flyfishingflorida.net.