They may not be edible or even a keeper fish, but tarpon sure are fun to tangle with.
“It’s pretty exciting. The fact that they jump makes it fun and it’s a release fish so that makes you feel good,” said local angler Andy Block.
Tarpon season along the Emerald Coast is currently underway. The tarpon, often referred to as the Silver King, migrate east to west through the area from June all the way through August.
“It’s in full swing right now,” Block said, who goes tarpon fishing with his wife Tracey every chance they get.
Block said he got hooked on tarpon fishing back in the '70s when he hooked his first one off the pier. And for the last 15 years he’s been tarpon fishing off his boat right off the beach.
“I absolutely love it. They put up a really good fight,” he said, noting they recently fought a 100-pounder for about three hours.
Block said fishing for tarpon is similar to fishing for cobia and he uses a lot of the same kind of tackle.
He uses a spinning rod, with 50-pound braid with a 60-pound fluorocarbon leader with a circle hook.
The secret to hooking a tarpon has a lot to do with using light line.
“The water is so clear here, and they have such good vision that you have to scale down on your line,” said Chris Wagner, who also loves to tangle with the tarpon.
As for bait, Wagner said he uses a live pilchard, thread herring or a cigar minnow.
And they are about the same distance off the beach as the cobia, which is also a migrating fish.
“Sometimes they are right up on the green bar where people are swimming … so it can be in swimming territory all the way out to the end of the pier. That’s about our range for looking for them,” Wagner said.
Early in the season the tarpon will be in schools of up to a 100 or more, but as the season goes on they start to break up into pairs, triples and groups of around six.
“Right now they are busting up (into smaller groups), those are hard to get to bite … they are finicky,” Wagner said. “But when they are in the big schools of 75 to100 and you put a bait through them, the ratio goes up. One of them will grab it.”
And when a tarpon is hooked that’s when the fun begins.
“It’s all about the fight and jumping and the amazing show they put on,” Wagner said. “They pull as hard as any fish I’ve ever fought. They are a war to catch one.”
For Wagner if he catches a half dozen a season he’s happy, while Block will probably reel in three or four dozen before the season is over.
“My wife absolutely loves it,” Block said. “It’s a husband and wife deal for us.
“We live in paradise. So we make the most of it on the boat every weekend,” Block said.