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Captain's Corner

What's hot: Schools of tarpon have ganged up along the gulf beaches, and there are several ways to get in on the action.

By JAY MASTRY
Published May 28, 2007


What's hot: Schools of tarpon have ganged up along the gulf beaches, and there are several ways to get in on the action. Two productive methods are bottom fishing with natural baits, and live baiting either fly-lined or suspended beneath corks. When bottom fishing, shad are by far the best bait but mullet, ladyfish, pinfish or grunts will work. Preferred live baits include full-grown greenbacks or whitebait, mid-sized pinfish, pass crabs or small blue crabs. I like offering a combination of the two techniques when figuring which baits the often finicky tarpon prefer.

Four to six well-placed bottom baits and a couple of properly presented live baits will generally cover the area, give you a hint of what they want and allow the opportunity for multiple hookups. Regardless of which method suits you, the key when working schools along the gulf beaches is anchoring well ahead of the oncoming schools and having your baits presented and settled when the schools get there. Bombarding schools of tarpon with cast baits is unnatural and will almost always spook a "happy" school and often get the tarpon greyhounding down the beach.

Tactics: With more anglers coming down with a chronic dose of "tarpon fever, " it's becoming difficult to find and work your own school of fish, but do all you can to try to. Seldom if ever is fishing in a crowd as productive as having them to yourself. If company shows up to "help, " being courteous and using common sense will create goodwill. Be patient, take a turn, then allow the next guy a chance.

Tips: A clingy seaweed has blanketed the bottom along several areas off the beaches of Anna Maria and Longboat Key. The mung-like weed gathers on line, knots and swivels and will cover bottom baits, making them ineffective. Relocating to another area is an alternative; keeping baits up and off the bottom is another.