Saturday, August 28, 2010

When the season's over, tarpon action heats up in Charlotte Harbor

I'm not much into cliches or fads. That's why I call a tarpon and tarpon. And not a, um, well, you get the picture.
Anyway, tarpon season is over.
As ESPN college football analyst Lee Corso is fond of saying, not so fast my friend.
Years ago, St. Petersburg guide Paul Hawkins told me that his favorite time of year to fish for tarpon was August and September in Charlotte Harbor. That's well after the traditional "season" has ended. By August, most tarpon hunters have long since stored their heavy gear in the closet.
Hawkins was right. Charlotte Harbor has a great population of tarpon and the action heats up in late summer.
I recently launched my kayak at Ponce de Leon Park in Punta Gorda. My goal was tarpon. I only had to paddle a few strokes before I was casting at tarpon. I found them rolling in the channel comping out of Alligator Creek. I jumped an fish I estimated at 80 pounds on my fourth or fifth cast, but my 40-pound leader was no much.
That action quickly subsided and I paddled to another spot. I found tarpon rolling on the surface over a large area. I jumped six more tarpon and landed one, a beautiful 30-pounder (in the photo). The fish was taken on a gold, D.O.A. TerrorEyz.
I returned to the area a few days later, but was met by wind and choppy water. We found a few tarpon, but they were tough to see in the chop. Dave Robinson of Sarasota was fishing with me and jumped two fish and had another go for his TerrorEyz at the side of the kayak.
A fast-approaching storm ended our day.
I took John Mallia of New York there recently and we found better conditions, but few tarpon. We did managed 45 spotted seatrout and a bunch of ladyfish, but only saw a couple of tarpon. They weren't visible in the harbor. We did paddle over to a nearby canal and also found it void of tarpon. I asked a woman who lives on the canal if she'd seen any tarpon and she said she hadn't in the last two weeks.
I remember a late-summer trip a few years ago. I fished with guide Brandon Naeve of Nokomis. We made the trip from Placida across a very rough harbor to fish some canals at Pirate Harbor. We got a shot at a few fish, but they weren't cooperative.
When we emerged from Pirate Harbor, we were met by a glassy-calm Charlotte Harbor.
"These conditions are perfect for tarpon," I said.
We hadn't gone more than 400 years when we spotted a large school of tarpon on the surface. Over the next two hours, we jumped nine fish on fly. Trouble was that the tarpon all were well more than 100 pounds, and our heaviest fly rod was an 8-weight.
Oh, well, it's fun jumping tarpon.
If we get some calm weather, I look for tarpon action to be good in the harbor.
It's that time of year.

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