The Tampa Bay Times

By Ed Walker

According to biologists, and most veteran guides, tarpon migrate offshore to spawn around the full moon in June. The full moon itself falls on Monday, June 17 this year but it will be big enough to get some of the fish moving by the end of this week.

Giant schools of pre-spawn tarpon gather at the mouths of the large estuaries such as the Egmont Key Channel and Boca Grande Pass where forage is abundant. When the time is right some schools begin the 100 plus mile journey to the edge of the continental shelf where spawning is believed to take place. No one has ever actually witnessed this deep-water ritual but larval sampling indicates that it happens there.

Generally speaking, they depart in waves. Not all of them leave at the exact same time. After a few days at sea big schools begin returning to the coast at select sections of the beach. Knowing where these hungry post-spawn fish land can be very beneficial to anglers. Keep an eye open for big splashes or free-jumpers much further out than you normally look. It is not uncommon to find them a mile or two offshore, slowly moving east. Once you establish where the inbound flow of fish is coming from you can follow it all the way to its beginning. Parking your boat in such spots can provide lots of hook-ups. Some of our very best days of the year have occurred when we located this flow of fish. Interestingly, you will notice that many of these fish have blue on their back, an indication that they have recently returned from deep blue water. Within a day they will adjust back to the greener color of inshore waters.