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Discussion Starter #1
Last week was tough fishing over on the Chokoloskee side of things, fly fishing in windy conditions complicated by a super moon (that appeared to last for three days...) and low tide/blown out conditions at dawn... Each day I went home talking to myself...


Yesterday at Flamingo made up for all of it with Dave Boyden from Maryland aboard... We left the fly fishing gear at home and stuck with spinning gear. The water temps now are up around 76 to 78 degrees so most of the big tarpon have left Whitewater Bay and moved a bit to the west around Oyster Bay and nearby river drainages. We started out the day catching ladyfish for bait (and a good ladyfish spot is pretty much an everything spot ... we caught jacks, ladyfish, speckled trout, and even a nice sized spanish mackeral - all without moving at all). It was a crazy 20 minutes to load the well with a half dozen ladyfish that were a bit bigger than I prefer (but the fish didn't seem to mind...).

We then checked out a couple of spots in Whitewater to confirm that the big silver girls were gone - then scooted towards Oyster Bay where we found quite a few big tarpon that were widely scattered and simply holding their ground in only four or five feet of water - rarely even rolling to gulp air - much less to feed... In a few minutes we had two baits out swimming while towing a small float or balloon to keep them honest. Our first bite came about 20 minutes later -but as usual with bigger baits that first fish only grabbed the ladyfish and took it for a short ride (ladyfish in the 14" range aren't easy for even a big tarpon to gulp down...) so it came back half scaled and was quickly replaced... A few miinutes later we were hooked up solid with big girl that looked to be well over 100lbs in size. This wasn't Dave's first tarpon - we've fished together before so he knew just what to do and in less than 15 minutes had that big girl stopped cold and was able to turn her over on several occasions... Here are a few pics....



Note his rod position in photo #2 - "down and dirty" is the way to go the moment a big tarpon quits jumping and running -then settles down to slug it out...

We had that big girl to the boat and released in right at the fifteen minute mark. After a few minutes to relax a bit we put out two more baits then were rewarded with a third bite (again with a ladyfish that was a bit large...) and pulled the hook on the strike. That fish was so turned on that it followed the bait all the way back to my skiff and made a second pass at it just as Dave pulled it from the water... At that point we had both tarpon and speckled trout releases so we made a point of looking for snook and redfish to complete the day and found both (with only minutes to spare)... Dave's first backcountry grand slam...

I expect this kind of fishing for the next few weeks if the weather stays moderate (but I can also remember more than one March with bitter cold weather and high winds so the weather, as always, will rule...

Be a hero - take a kid fishing !
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I made a point of checking projected air temps for the next ten days and don't see much that might drop water temps... That doesn't mean that the winds and rain won't be a problem... I live or die by water temps in winter and early spring... As of last Sunday we didn't find a single tarpon in Whitewater, the nice water temps (up to 78 in some spots) had them moving to the west over towards Oyster... How long they'll stay there is anyone's guess....
 

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Last week was tough fishing over on the Chokoloskee side of things, fly fishing in windy conditions complicated by a super moon (that appeared to last for three days...) and low tide/blown out conditions at dawn... Each day I went home talking to myself...


Yesterday at Flamingo made up for all of it with Dave Boyden from Maryland aboard... We left the fly fishing gear at home and stuck with spinning gear. The water temps now are up around 76 to 78 degrees so most of the big tarpon have left Whitewater Bay and moved a bit to the west around Oyster Bay and nearby river drainages. We started out the day catching ladyfish for bait (and a good ladyfish spot is pretty much an everything spot ... we caught jacks, ladyfish, speckled trout, and even a nice sized spanish mackeral - all without moving at all). It was a crazy 20 minutes to load the well with a half dozen ladyfish that were a bit bigger than I prefer (but the fish didn't seem to mind...).

We then checked out a couple of spots in Whitewater to confirm that the big silver girls were gone - then scooted towards Oyster Bay where we found quite a few big tarpon that were widely scattered and simply holding their ground in only four or five feet of water - rarely even rolling to gulp air - much less to feed... In a few minutes we had two baits out swimming while towing a small float or balloon to keep them honest. Our first bite came about 20 minutes later -but as usual with bigger baits that first fish only grabbed the ladyfish and took it for a short ride (ladyfish in the 14" range aren't easy for even a big tarpon to gulp down...) so it came back half scaled and was quickly replaced... A few miinutes later we were hooked up solid with big girl that looked to be well over 100lbs in size. This wasn't Dave's first tarpon - we've fished together before so he knew just what to do and in less than 15 minutes had that big girl stopped cold and was able to turn her over on several occasions... Here are a few pics....



Note his rod position in photo #2 - "down and dirty" is the way to go the moment a big tarpon quits jumping and running -then settles down to slug it out...

We had that big girl to the boat and released in right at the fifteen minute mark. After a few minutes to relax a bit we put out two more baits then were rewarded with a third bite (again with a ladyfish that was a bit large...) and pulled the hook on the strike. That fish was so turned on that it followed the bait all the way back to my skiff and made a second pass at it just as Dave pulled it from the water... At that point we had both tarpon and speckled trout releases so we made a point of looking for snook and redfish to complete the day and found both (with only minutes to spare)... Dave's first backcountry grand slam...

I expect this kind of fishing for the next few weeks if the weather stays moderate (but I can also remember more than one March with bitter cold weather and high winds so the weather, as always, will rule...

Be a hero - take a kid fishing !
Bob, thanks for the report. Can you provide some insight regarding rigging those live ladyfish?
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
We fish them exactly how you’d fish a live mullet (6/0 to 8/0 circle inside the mouth and out through the upper jaw...) with an 80lb leader and a cork or balloon to keep them honest.

We try not to cast them the way you can with a mullet - just let them swim away from the skiff until each one is where you want it...

This is where things get different. When the bait is where you want it - the rod is placed in a rod holder in gear with normal drag... no drop back ever. 8 out ten strikes result in a perfect hook up. I don’t want my angler touching the rod until it’s bent over and the drag is singing. We missed a bunch of strikes before I learned not to drop back to the fish at all....
 

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We fish them exactly how you’d fish a live mullet (6/0 to 8/0 circle inside the mouth and out through the upper jaw...) with an 80lb leader and a cork or balloon to keep them honest.

We try not to cast them the way you can with a mullet - just let them swim away from the skiff until each one is where you want it...

This is where things get different. When the bait is where you want it - the rod is placed in a rod holder in gear with normal drag... no drop back ever. 8 out ten strikes result in a perfect hook up. I don’t want my angler touching the rod until it’s bent over and the drag is singing. We missed a bunch of strikes before I learned not to drop back to the fish at all....
Thanks, Bob.
 
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