The Tampa Bay Times

By Ed Walker

Tarpon season is upon us. The big silverkings have moved into the Bay Area in large numbers and more are arriving every day. There are many places and techniques that can be used to catch them. One of our favorites is targeting bait balls that the tarpon have surrounded. This year we have seen one of the largest influxes of tiny bait fish in the last decade. Many of the passes and channels leading into the bay are stuffed full of millions upon millions of small threadfin herring and glass minnows. These remarkable bait biomasses stretch sporadically along our coast from Fort Myers beach to Clearwater. Pelagic species such as bonito and mackerel chases the bait from deepwater into the bays and estuaries. Sometimes when these fleeing minnow masses encounter newly arrived tarpon schools fireworks erupt.

There is nothing more exciting than watching 100 pound tarpon launching through a school of minnows. To hook-up with the fish we drift live threadfin herring around the perimeter of the frenzy. This allows your bait to stand out alone rather than disappear into the mass of smaller baits. It can take a while to get a bite when the fish are more focused on gulping mouthfuls of densely packed tiny fish but with a bit of patience it usually draws the strikes. If the tarpon are there you will usually see them crashing the surface or flashing on their sides in the bait.