Tarpon fishing is a popular hobby in the state of Florida, with Fort Myers being one of the top spots for catching these fishes. Before you get on your tarpon fishing gear and start gunning for those giant tarpon fishes, you should know a few things about tarpon fishing in Fort Myers.
1. Ft. Myers Remains A Top Florida Fishing Spot
Florida remains the best location for tarpon fishing not just in the states but also worldwide. In fact, Boca Grande is internationally renowned as the Tarpon Capital of the World. Tarpon anglers flock to Boca Grande for an excellent tarpon fishing experience. Similarly, other spots in the Sunshine State are also becoming popular—check out Charlotte Harbor, Sanibel Island and its Tarpon Bay, Fisher Island, and of course, Fort Myers Beach.
Fort Myers is a huge tourist spot, being the gateway to the Southwest Florida area. Known for historical estates such as The Mangoes and the Seminole Lodge, the city is also gaining traction in the tarpon fishing scene. As such, you can join fishing charters that leave shore from the length of Fort Myers Beach and go past the Upper and Middle Keys.
2. Tarpon Fishing Is Seasonal
Tarpons are migratory sport fishes that move around in large groups. Also known as the silver king, an adult fish can weigh more than 200lbs, with the heaviest ever caught being 286 pounds and 9 ounces caught in March 2003. Tarpons are easily distinguishable by the long and silvery bodies adorned with large scales. Also, tarpons are famous for their drag screaming runs and their flying acrobatics—making them a favorite among fly fishermen.
However, they are not readily available throughout the year. In fact, there are preferred seasons and times of the day for the best catch available. They are generally sighted between Spring and Summer seasons. The best time to fish for these large, migratory fishes in the Fort Myers area is when the water temperatures exceed seventy-five degrees Fahrenheit, making mid-March to early April the best time to go on a tarpon fishing trip. Still, in recent years, May and until June have become good fishing schedules for tarpon fishing.
This is for Fort Myers, though. Other parts of the Sunshine State are open for tarpon fishing trips during other parts of the year. On the Atlantic Coast, below Biscayne Bay, fly fishing canals are available around Government Cut and Port Everglades from January through June.
3. A Wide Range Of Baits Is Available
Unlike other types of fishing, fishing for tarpon in the Fort Myers area offers flexibility for your choice of bait. Here are some of the baits you can use for your next tarpon fishing trip:
Remember that experienced tarpon anglers prefer natural bait during the ebb tide. Usually, you position your boat in the up-current and let the bait drift naturally to the fishes. A bimini twist knot is strongly recommended for doubling your line at about six feet. It’s also recommended to attach about eight feet of 100-pound mono through a swivel. Remember that the mouth of tarpon is hard and bony, so make sure to use sharp hooks.
For shrimps, you might want to hook a large shrimp through its horn. You can also thread the shrimp for the free lining. Floats are not recommended because their buoyancy makes it difficult for the shrimp to squirm and swim around. Hook sizes should be up to 4/0 down to 2/0. After casting, keep your fly rod raised to allow the bait to skip on the water’s surface, rousing the tarpons below.
For anglers preferring fish bait, pichards, pinfish, and mullet are great options. You can hook the fish lure through the top lip or behind the head if you’re anchored. Preferred hooks are from 10/0 to 6/0, depending on the size of the fish. Keep an eye on the float to keep the lure away from the grass.
An artificial lure works best on flats. It is recommended to use lighter lines and cast closer to increase the odds of the tarpon seeing your lure. Spinning lures and plugs are better retrieved slowly. Let the lure sink first, pull intermittently, and start reeling in your slack. For fishing canals connected with saltwater, Rebels are strongly recommended.
4. Hooking And Landing Tarpons
Like anywhere else in the state, fishing for tarpons in Fort Myers is often assessed at the end of the trip. Some anglers measure their success for a day from the number of tarpons they jumped instead of those they landed. This is in consideration of the excessively bony mouth of the tarpon that makes it hard to set hooks properly. Aside from using brand new hooks, your fellow anglers would also recommend sharpening them to increase your chances of penetrating the tarpon jaw.
Additionally, the timing for hooking tarpons is another challenge. Understand that it takes some time before learning when to try and set their hook. For natural bait, first, take your slackline in after you feel a bite. Usually, you should strike hard at least twice after feeling the weight. It helps ensure that the bait is already in the mouth of the tarpon.
For fly fishing, avoid the common mistake of striking right after the fish captures the fly. Only set your hook when you start feeling the weight of the tarpon. Once your fly is taken, first stop stripping and wait a moment to ensure that the fish has already taken the fly.
Once you’ve hooked the tarpon, landing becomes the next big challenge. Even experienced anglers are taken aback by the strength and vigor of a tarpon’s jump. After hooking, expert a lot of leaps, gill rattles, and even somersaults. Make sure to position your hands to help your reel drag once you find the right timing—usually when the fish starts pulling back in preparation for another jump.
5. Charter Fishing Service Is Available
You can book charter fishing trips around Fort Myers. Choose between six-hour and eight-hour trips, with rates changing depending on the season and the number of passengers joining the trip.
However, remember that during tarpon season, there are a lot of anglers coming in from all around the world. You might want to plan your fishing trip in advance and maintain communication with the captain. Typical trips around the bay start early in the morning, around 8 AM. However, some trips leave even earlier if the captain believes in a better catch.
There are also a number of different methods, determined by a number of factors such as the weather, location, tides, and the temperament of the fish. Below are some tarpon fishing strategies the captain might implement.
- Drifting: Under this method, drift nets are cast and are left to hang vertically against the water column. Nets are not anchored, and the net remains vertical through floats and weights.
- Site casting: This is a broad term for different casting techniques that usually involve aiming at a pothole, a wake being pushed, or throwing lures at a swirl in the water.
- Anchoring: As the name suggests, this approach requires you to anchor the boat and allow you to fish in a stationary position. Usually, anchoring is done in a well-protected location with enough water levels.
Book Your Charter With Caloosahatchee Cowboy!
Whether you’re an experienced angler or a newcomer to the tarpon fishing scene, book your charter with trusted and knowledgeable seamen. If you’re looking to set out on an adventure from Fort Myers, Florida, check out Caloosahatchee Cowboy. They can guide you through a variety of activities like back bay fishing, shelling, near and offshore fishing, and tarpon fishing.
With their knowledge of the local waters and experience sailing under varying conditions, captains of the Caloosahatchee Cowboy Charter can guide you toward catching not just the average tarpon but something qualified for a trophy catch. Contact them today and set your next tarpon adventure.