Although we are blessed with resident tarpon year-round, their southern cousins are slowly heading north and west along with an army of sharks that prey on them as they make the journey.
A large part of the group will turn right at Miami and head north along the east coast ending up in various locations as far north as Virginia and even in parts of the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. The other group veers left heading our way with many continuing along the Gulf coast states throughout the Gulf of Mexico.
Back here in early May, anchored boats a few miles off Sanibel will be the first to intercept the northbound fish usually in rough seas and plentiful winds. If you're not an old salt take some ginger (before and during) for your stomach to ward off seasickness.
Capt. George Tunison
Most say these bright chrome, newly arrived tarpon are the strongest you will encounter short of the 400-pounders that patrol Africa's costal waters. Hooking a 400-pounder in a skiff has been added to my bucket list. Is a 400-pounder too big to actually jump and clear the water like a little 200-pounder can? I can't imagine, but I want to see it happen.
Now is the time to get your gear ready. Is your mono a few seasons old? Why spend the time, money and effort required to hook a tarpon with old line. Fresh mono, ultra sharp hooks, clean, well oiled functioning reels, and all required release tools, fighting belts, cameras, and an uncluttered boat make for a fun and safe tarpon experience.
Now pick the place for your encounter. Nighttime river fishing gets me going while others like to intercept tarpon along the beaches as the sun comes up. Silently poling and sight casting a fly to a laid-up 100-pounder in a two-foot deep channel in Matlacha does it for some. Combat anglers enjoy the madness of Boca Grande as they dodge other boats and 1,000-pound hammerheads looking to catch your tarpon before you do.
If you've not had the angling honor of doing battle with the silver king and don't know where to start by all means joining the Cape Coral Tarpon Hunters Club and/or hiring a local professional guide is a step in the right direction. Both can impart a lifetime's worth of angling knowledge in a few hours or meetings.
If you can't wait for everyone to arrive, head to the Keys for a tarpon bonanza at the Bahia Honda State Park (305-872-2353). Get on one of the charters at the foot of the Seven Mile Bridge where tarpon gather in huge numbers for a great shot at multiple catches. (www.tarponguranteed.com) Camping, fishing, snorkeling all available as well as a ramp and kayak rentals.
On the way down stop at Robbie's Bait & Tackle with your camera and buy a bucket-o-bait to hand feed to the resident tarpon that live at the end of his dock like fat dogs waiting for scraps. Hold a bait in your hand and they will take it from you, sometimes rather violently. Do not lean over with a bait fish in your hand with your face right above it. You might easily get KO'd or a badly broken nose.
Tarpon fishing is one of the few big game fishing adventures that can be enjoyed by everyone regardless of income. Grab your Jon boat and 10-horse kicker and hit the river. Canoes, kayaks work as well.