May 22 2016
Although Boca Grande is known as the “Tarpon Capital of the World,” these leaping silver kings don’t simply jump on in the boat. Careful consideration and technique goes into snagging one of these vigorous giants.
If you’re visiting Boca Grande and considering a Tarpon fishing trip, charters will carefully consider the time of year, the weathersea conditions and even the tides to determine where they’ll take you and what methods they’ll use to ensure you get to experience the thrill of fighting a Tarpon.
One very important decision they will need to make is what type of bait they want to use. While there are a variety of artificial lures, these are used mostly by more experienced anglers. Many charters, and even the most diehard anglers, prefer live baits.
Below are 6 common types of live baits used for Tarpon fishing around Boca Grande. Knowledgeable charters and anglers carry two or three different types just in case the fish are not biting on a particular bait.
Shrimp – A good all-around live bait not only for Tarpon, but Redfish, Snook and other inshore fish around Boca Grande. Available at most bait shops or can be caught using a dip or cast net. When fishing for Tarpon, charters will find the biggest ones they can find – 4-1/2 inches or larger is preferable. Shrimp isn’t used as much in the summer months since they’re too small.
Crabs – This is considered the best Tarpon bait around Boca Grande, especially during the spring months when the Tarpon are most active. Spring tides, also known as “hill” tides, are much stronger than tides during the rest of the year. As a result of the higher water and tidal flow, the crabs are washed out of the flats and into Boca Grande Pass, which creates a virtual crab buffet for the Tarpon.
Pinfish – Most novice Tarpon anglers only consider shrimp and crabs, but Pinfish should also be at the top of anybody’s list. Similar appearance to a Piranha, Pinfish are found in grass flats throughout Florida. Some bait shops will keep them, but they can easily be caught with cast net and a little chum. For Tarpon fishing, Pinfish around 5 to 6 inches long are ideal. Many charters and experienced anglers will trim the Pinfish’s sharp fins to boost the number of hookups.
Ladyfish – These elongated fish look like little miniature sharks – they have a slender body, small scales and a small and pointed head. They move in packs around bays and estuaries and spend a lot of time around tidal pools and canals. Ladyfish also go to freshwater on occasion. They are available throughout the year, but for Tarpon fishing, they work best in late summer, early fall. It’s best for the Ladyfish to be under 15 inches long for Tarpon fishing. Keeping Ladyfish alive though requires the bait well to have a water intake system.
Pilchards/Herring – These small fish are good go-to Tarpon bait year-round except during the coldest winter months (December thru February). Pilchards are pretty widespread on both Florida coasts while the Herring is more common on the Gulf where Boca Grande is. Both Pilchards and Herring congregate in the shallow grass flats, at the mouth of a canal, an inlet or around channel markers and buoys. For Tarpon fishing, a Pilchard or Herring needs to be at least 4-inches long.
Mullet – Like crabs, mullet are considered to be one of the best live baits for Tarpon, especially during their runs in the fall. They can be easily caught around shorelines, residential canals and even boat docks using a cast net. Since the Mullet travel in schools during their run, the Tarpon lie in wait and ambush them around passes, inlets and river mouths. For Tarpon fishing, the ideal size for your Mullet bait is 7 to 9 inches, but if fishing in the fall, you need to up that to 10 to 12 inches if possible.
As you can see, charters will not use the same bait throughout the year. While Shrimp may be the best in the fall/winter months, they’re usually too small to interest the Tarpon in the summer.
It’s important to note that any good fishing charter will have more than one type of bait on board. It’s not unheard of for Tarpon to not bite certain baits, even if it’s the prime time of year for it.
Capt. Leighton Ingram of Krewe Chief Charters has extensive experience fishing for Tarpon around Boca Grande and knows the best bait to use for the time you’ll be going and places he’ll take you. Click here to learn more or to schedule a heart-pounding Tarpon fishing excursion today.