We all love the warm and tropical climate we live in, but through the next few months the afternoons can be downright unbearable. In this article I will give you a few late spring and summer time ideas that will keep you cool and produce some very impressive catches.
Night fishing has always been a summer time favorite of mine and there are few fish that are more active and willing to bite than our coastal sharks. Depending on the size of the sharks you are targeting and weather you are fishing from a fixed position or a boat your tackle and presentation are key. For smaller sharks in the 50 to 100 pound range conventional reels in the 4/0 and 6/0 category filled with 30 to 50 pound mono are perfect. For terminal tackle a six foot piece of #9 wire and a 8/0 4x strong circle hook with enough lead to get the bait to stay on the bottom is as simple and effective as it gets. Bait is a little more complicated though. While most dead baits will work well, fresh far out performs frozen. My favorite fresh baits include sting rays, ladyfish, mullet, and especially mackerel. If fishing from a boat just anchor up away from any swim buoys near the passes and fan some baits out around the boat checking them regularly as smaller fish will pick them clean over time. The waiting is the hardest part but bringing some chum can speed up the action. Leave your reels in free spool with the clicker on and when something picks up the bait let them swim away for about 10 seconds, then just put the reel in gear and start reeling the circle will do its job. If fishing from the beach you will need to change things up a bit. First you will need a kayak or stand up paddle board to get your baits out past the sand bar. Just as important is your sinker. You must use a “sputnik” or surf lead. These specially designed weights have wires that stick out to anchor them in the sand and keep the baits where you put them.
For the truly large sharks in the 150 to 500 plus range you have to beef it up quite a bit. Reels in the 9/0 to 14/0 category with short stiff rods and roller guides are the weapon of choice here. Monofilament line won’t cut it here you must use braid or dacron in the 130 to 200 lb range and don’t forget your fighting belt either. Terminal tackle is quite different also, stranded 400 pound cable and 14/0 ultra strong J hooks. The cable or bite leader only needs to be about 5 foot, but a 250 or 300 pound mono shock leader around 15 feet or so will need to be crimped to the swivels between the main line and the bite leader. One more trick is to wrap the cable leader with electrical tape to help it from putting off ultra sensitive electrical signals that can deter some sharks, sounds crazy but it works.
Bait is still the same but instead of using chunks use whole baits with slits cut in them. These techniques will produce some true monsters and make you a little nervous the next time you go splashing around on the beach. But don’t worry we are not on their menu.
Tarpon are also very active at night when boat traffic slows down and appetites pick up. Despite what most people believe tarpon are actually scavengers and do most of their feeding on the bottom. Good places to find these fish are near the mouths of passes and the edges of sandbars on the beach. Your normal Tarpon outfits will work and you can use 80 to 100 pound mono leader, but steel leaders don’t seem to bother the Tarpon at night and will prevent bite offs from sharks. Bait is pretty basic, while fresh baits work better frozen Shad, Ladyfish, Mullet and Bonita all work well too. Use a 6/0 to 8/0 3x circle hook and enough weight to keep it on the bottom. I leave my reels in gear and in the rod holder, Tarpon will inhale the bait and swim off letting the circle hook do its job. After a fish is hooked you will need to follow it, keep constant pressure and “bow” to them when they jump. Once boat-side, get a pair of gloves and grab them by the lower jaw being careful of the fish’s swinging armor plated head and always keep an eye out for the large sharks that hunt these giants. It is good to always check the current regulations before you fish, Tarpon are a catch and release species only with a possible of one tag per person per year. Also, you will be allowed to temporarily possess a tarpon for photography, measurement of length and girth and scientific sampling, with the stipulation that tarpon more than 40 inches must remain in the water.
Madeira Beach Marina Manager