Summer fishing can often mean hot stagnant conditions that can make you plenty uncomfortable.
However, when the wind goes still this can be prime time to hunt down backwater tarpon. Tarpon incorporate oxygen from the surface with oxygen in the water, allowing them to live in areas that would be unappealing to other game fish.
Tampa bay holds plenty of tarpon this time of year. Finding them requires slick, calm conditions, as the tarpon will surface more actively when the water is smooth. Target deep areas around all the bridges, river mouths, creek mouths, deep holes around the ports and any bird activity that you come across.
Popular methods for catching these fish would be casting plugs to surfacing fish, and the other would be soaking baits on the bottom where you see the fish rolling the most. Plug fishing can be excellent when the fish are very active. Plugs such as D.O.A. Baitbusters and Mirro-Lure TT’s and 65m’s will produce. Use a long rod and a reel with 30- or 40-pound braid and 24 inches of 60- or 80-pound leader. Bottom fishing with cut mullet or mackerel will work when the sun gets high and the fish begin to refuse the plugs. Composite rods will give-way a bit when the fish strikes resulting in fewer thrown hooks, large bait-runner type spinning reels work great for this type of fishing. An 80-pound mono leader and a big circle hook, such as a 9/0 or 10/0, will help to ensure that the fish doesn’t throw the hook on the first jump.
Micro baits schools easily marked by dipping turns are thick over grass shoals near the passes, attracting many predators. Spanish mackerel, trout and the occasional cobia can be chummed up on a good moving tide. Free-line live pilchards on a long shank hook over dark patches inside the passes for some fast action. Flashy spoons or plugs also will catch plenty of fish, especially if you get them into a frenzy with live chum.
Tyson Wallerstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To get a fish photo in the paper, send the photo along with your name, when and where it was caught to editorial@TBNweekly.com or mail it to Tampa Bay Newspapers, 9911 Seminole Blvd., Seminole, FL 33772.