Spawn over, tarpon focus on eating


With tarpon spawning season over, these big migratory fish will shift their focus from aggregating to feeding. This can be good news for anglers. Earlier in the season, the fish are in tight schools with specific destinations in mind. Feeding is not their top priority; they seldom veer far off course to strike a bait and rarely attack a pod of baitfish. Conversely, post-spawn tarpon are often found as singles or in loose bunches that do not mind deviating from their course to chase a meal. Many move into areas of dense baitfish population; for the most part, this means the upper reaches of the major estuaries such as Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor. The forage is very small: tiny menhaden, sardines or glass minnows. It is the concentration of baitfish that makes them appealing to such large fish. The big fish can simply glide through the bait schools and gulp huge mouthfuls. This feeding activity is not limited to the upper bays. In late summer, any place the minnows get so thick they make the water appear dark (or red) has a good chance of holding big tarpon. When you do discover the tarpon-versus-minnow melee, approach quietly. The fish spook easily when feeding and will shut down at the slightest hint of a boat.

Ed Walker charters out of Tarpon Springs. He can be contacted at