There are many ways in South Florida to hook and catch Tarpon. The possibilities are almost endless but here are the few ways that we target tarpon- Night Time in the various bridges and channels, on the flats with laid up fish, in open bays different times of the year, and deep in the back-country, where some of the little babies are.
Using spin gear, we catch them on live bait and artificial. I will use live shrimp, pinfish, ladyfish, crabs, and mullet. The type of bait we use all depends on the area and time of the year.
I do fish a lot for tarpon using artificial baits. I like throwing big plugs that look like mullet and ladyfish when I am fishing in the everglades.
Tarpon on fly has to be in my opinion the most exciting way to catch a tarpon. People spend thousands of dollars each year to chase these fish with a fly rod.
You can spend countless hours on a skiff and not have a shot on a fish, but as soon as you see a tarpon eat your fly you will be hooked for life.
I love sight fishing in general, but when it comes to sight fishing tarpon there is something about it that makes me want to be on the water every day.
Fishing in Downtown Miami is usually a late afternoon or night fishery. These fish are nocturnal feeders and feed heavily at night. During daylight hours, they are around but very difficult to catch. There is a lot of boat traffic during the day and it keeps the fish down near the bottom. At night, the traffic starts to slow down, and the tarpon become a little more active. Floating crabs and shrimp in Government Cut during an outgoing tide usually gets things going. I like to free line them and have them drift naturally with the tide. On the outgoing tide, the tide will carry shrimp and crabs from the many grass flats in Biscayne Bay through all the bridges and out of Government Cut. So naturally, Government Cut is a feeding station. A lot of fish will come into the cut and line up at the buffet station. Some nights you can hear the fish blow up all around your boat. It sounds like bowling balls being dropped in the water. It is a really cool deal. Sometimes the Cut isn’t producing, so we need to fish the bridges that connect downtown Miami to Miami Beach. These bridges at night will create a shadow line from the street lights on the bridge. That is a perfect ambush point for tarpon. They will cruise that shadow line, which most times is right underneath the bridge. On the outgoing tide, the tide will bring the bait to the fish. I will set up tide from the bridge and naturally free line our baits to these fish. Tarpon are very lazy fish and they do not want to waste a lot of energy looking for food. So this is perfect for them. A lot of the times you will hear a fish bust or see on flash and then you know they are there. I will usually look for those signs before I even set up to fish.
When I fly fish around the bridges, I will do that exact opposite. I like to hold on to one of the pilings and fish up down tide. That way you don’t spook any fish and you naturally bring the fly right to them. Since you are fishing with there backs to you, they have no idea that you are even there. The good part about that is you can almost sight fish, and pick out which fish you want to target. I like using shrimpy looking flies or a big white streamer fly. The fish are not to picky and as long as you are quiet, you will get a bite. It is a great way to get your first tarpon on fly. You don’t have to make long casts, so it is a little easier for a beginner to get a bite.
The other way I like fishing in downtown Miami is fishing the many dock lights along the Intracoastal and back canals. The underwater lights around the docks attract bait and in turn bring the tarpon and snook. I like throwing flies at these docks because it mimics the bait a little better, but if you have live bait that will also work. This is all done by sight fishing. Making an accurate cast is extremely important in this situation.
It is one of the most challenging ways to catch a tarpon, but by far the most rewarding. Book a trip with a native Miami Tarpon fishing guide!