Tarpon fishing is almost a year round endeavor here in Tamp Bay. Pretty much when the water sustains constant temperature we have tarpon to catch here in the Tampa Bay area. Of course certain times of the year we have better tarpon fishing. So let’s start from the first of the year.
JANUARY – Water is cold, tarpon fishing pretty much not happening except for a few bay tarpon in the rivers and a few medium size fish in the power plants.
FEBUARY – Is much like January depending on water temperature, sometimes toward the middle to the end of the month the resident full grown tarpon will make for some early season fishing around the bridges. They are very temperature sensitive at this time and only bite on the warmer days.
MARCH – Is really when our early season tarpon fishing kicks it once the water temperature sustains above 70 degrees. It can be a very good month with lots of multiple hook ups. A good day may produce as many as a dozen hookups. All the fish range from 50 to 200 plus pounds around the bays bridges, large structures and rock ledges. There is also some good tarpon fishing in the rivers for smaller fish from 20 to 60 pounds. This is a great time of year to tarpon fish the early morning and then hit the flats for snook and redfish.
APRIL – Is a very good consistent month for resident fish, similar to March but probably a little more consistent. The water has warmed up and the fish’s metabolism is working faster so they need to eat more. They feed more though out the day. Toward the end of the month there are some fish hitting the beaches and large bay passes from the southern migration, sometimes in fishable numbers, but usually it’s a little early for those fish.
MAY – Really marks the start of the southern migration when thousands of Tarpon hit the beaches, passes, and flood into the waters throughout Tampa bay. It’s without a doubt the beginning of tarpon fever and what marks the start of peek season for sight fishing tarpon. Tarpon fishing is excellent on the beaches at this time with light boat traffic making for prime sight fishing on light tackle and fly fishing. An average day is 7 to 12 hooked with 2 to 3 landed, sometimes more. Tarpon fishing is also very good for the resident fish up in the bay and offers a lot of opportunities in many directions. Migrating Tarpon average 70 to 140 pounds. Trophies start at 150 pounds and go right up to 200 Plus.
JUNE – Is a great month, right in the middle of peek season. There are tarpon everywhere, more boat traffic but more fish so it balances itself out. Sight fishing is great on the beaches. There are more fish in the passes than the month before. The resident fish are biting good up in the bay as well. Pretty much the tarpon are everywhere.
JULY – Tarpon fishing is still good on the beach. Tarpon are thick in the passes. Sometimes they get in large spread-out schools that can run a mile long; all you have to do is get in the middle and drift. It’s really awesome and fish can be seen rolling in every direction. Sometimes you can’t even decide where to cast. You cast one direction and you see 5 roll the other direction. It’s very exciting and the schools are as large as May and June, not as balled up so that pinpoint casting is not as important as the months before.
AUGUST – Prime season has dwindled down but it is still good for tarpon fishing. A Tampa Bay tarpon charter can still produce a half dozen fish or so during the month of august. The migrating tarpon have slowed and thinned out at this point but there are still some fish left in the passes from the migration. The resident fish can be very good at this time. The water is hot so they have to eat more per day to stay healthy. There is also some sight fishing for resident tarpon in the back bays that go for live bait, fly or artificial.
SEPTEMBER – Tarpon fishing is much the same as august. The only difference is the last of the migration is gone in the passes; the resident tarpon is really where the best action is at this point. The nice thing about tarpon fishing after the peak season is very light tarpon fishing traffic. You get a lot of good opportunities and don’t have to worry about other boat traffic.
OCTOBER – Is a great month to be on the water, excellent weather and light boat traffic? Most of the tarpon fishing is done on the bays deep water structures at that point. Sometime the beach can be good with a scattering of tarpon heading south for warmer water. These are the same fish that we fish on the beaches in early summer. They are usually mixed in the large bait schools. Sometime tarpon can be very good on the beach at that time, but it’s very hit or miss. The resident tarpon are a better bet for consistent day to day action.
NOVEMBER – Tarpon fishing in November is much like October but usually winding down for the year around the end of the month. Tarpon are still worth chasing until the water dips below a sustained 70 degree temperature.
DECEMBER – It’s still possible to catch small tarpon in the rivers and back water canals. Occasionally someone may catch a mid size tarpon in one of the power plants as well, but all in all it’s best to find something else to fish for. December is a good time to plan your tarpon fishing charters for the next year though. A good tarpon guide books well in advance.