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I am headed down to the keys for the first week in May for a DIY tarpon trip. Does anybody have any tips they wouldn't mind sharing. Fly patterns or strategies or really anything. Only my second time down there and didn't have much success the first time. I'm staying at Cudjoe key and will be taking my 14 foot scout down as well. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks guys!
 

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Thanks. I managed one hookup last time, but got broke off on something underwater after a five minute fight. Hopefully I can get one landed this time.
 

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Wish'n I was Fish'n!
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I got yelled at by a guide the first time I fished Cudjoe. It was quite the educational experience. So I suggested he publish a book with all their local rules. A couple years later I found that they did, and had even proposed pole & troll zones to NOAA.

https://lkga.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/lkga-code-of-conduct-.pdf

https://lkga.org/lkga-letter-and-maps-sent-to-noaa/

HINT: Follow your shadow.
Thanks for sharing that Mike. They should band jet skiers all together in those zones too.

I wish we had those set of rules where it was mandatory is you were going to fish or run a boat in areas like Boca Grande, you'd need to follow and adhere to such rules set forth.

For those reading.....

Any good tarpon fly fisherman, that is seasoned to follow the ropes of good setup etiquette, if unfamiliar to an area and how it is properly fished, should be able to ease into an area, sit back from a distance and observe what the other boats are doing. If boats are already staged up in a certain area, then follow suit, spacing yourself evenly and in line among with the other boats, being patient and awaiting your turn to cast as the fish swim by. Most migrating tarpon will follow in a string, smelling the fish in front of them and following their scent trail and coming almost within feet of the same line the previous fish came thru. Setting up allow you to cast on the on-coming fish a few times and allow them to push on by without you chasing them and disturbing their tempo, while giving the next boat the opportunity to throw on them as well, as you did. Then the next string coming will give you more shots as you had on the previous fish. This whole behavior pattern down there in the Middle Keys happens from 1st of April (occasionally late March) and ends around the 1st of June (occasionally ending around late May).

Laid up fish in the basins are more of a pole and troll targeted fish and likewise, if guides or anglers are working those areas, proper etiquette and distances need to be observed.

Remember guys, success does not always add up to how many fish you land on a fly rod, but how much you learn about the fish and their behavior, when and where they will be, what they are doing and how you effectively move into position without spooking them. Ideally then, and eventually, it's about the techniques you have learned and figure out on your own, to get their attention, again, without spooking them and cause them to eat. Of course, fighting landing and release techniques, which may take years to hone down, even for very savvy fly anglers on DIY trips.

Best of luck (but mostly, the best of your skills). :cool:

Ted Haas
 

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Last year had my ExoticsGuy (peacocks,clown knifes)from DelrayBeach who does remodeling got us a house on big pine and we worked BahaiaHonda bridge. Lost one on the fly in the canal on a cock roach but ended up catching one on a live crab. Hammerhead ate a big one at the boat. Big schools coming thru bridge on falling tide but they hang around during slack tide also. Can't wait to get down to try them again.
 

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A group of us just got back late last night from 3 days of fishing down in Marathon. I had never done any tarpon fishing so all of it was new to me. Luckily, one of the guys going had a clue on what and where to go so we did have some knowledge.

We targeted juvi poons in the morning and late afternoon before sunset. We mostly fished mangrove lines and some of the cuts and creeks watching for rolling fish. The only fly we threw at those fish were gurglers in all sorts of colors. We ended up catching small tarpon and plenty of mangrove snapper and small cuda so get ready to lose some flies when they hook up. We ended up keeping one rod rigged with some wire bite on so we wouldn't lose flies to them. For the tarpon, all I can say is set the damn hook and set it hard. I lost several fish due to this mistake.... lesson learned. I'm used to redfish and they def aren't the same by any means.

For the big fish, we cruised around and ended up targeting several of the cuts in the area. You can see the changes in the sand flats and grass lines when you're out and the suns up. Anchor in the darker areas but close enough to where you can see fish cruise over the sandy bottom and set yourself up depending on how they're coming through. It was an experience having the opportunity to throw flies at those fish, really gets the blood pumping! We saw HUNDREDS of big fish, only jumped 3 and the rest of them snubbed their nose at what we threw, but hey, we tried and had an absolute blast. Tan/Chartreuse seems to have the most interest to us, but we also threw black/purple, chartreuse, all tan, worms... the works really. It was pretty windy 2 of the days we had down there, but we made the best of what we could and had plenty of fun.

Do keep your distance if you see anyone anchored up or working an area. We made sure to swing WAY wide if we saw anyone fishing and kept a professional distance from them. There's plenty of water out there for everyone so just let them be.

Do take some time at night to check fish busting bait under the bridges. We went out one night and just watched hundreds of monster tarpon crushing mullet and it absolutely blew out mind!

Good luck on your trip down there!
 

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Read the etiquette link Mike posted from the LKGA. When you’re running Oceanside, make sure you run well outside of the line you see other skiffs on (I keep at least a mile between myself and other skiffs while on plane), don’t run over the fish. Once you find a spot you want to fish, idle in until you’re a few hundred yards outside of the line, shut down, and pole the rest of the way in. Remember that everything you do effects everyone else on the line you’re fishing. If you’re loud (slamming hatches, music, trolling motor, etc) you can put the fish down for everyone within eyesight.

Go find the excerpt on feeding tarpon from Andy Mill’s book on Midcurrent, that’s the hardest part of the game.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thanks everyone! That link from Mike is great thanks. I'll be sure to be careful about how close I get to people. I wasn't really aware of no motor zones before I read that article though. I'm from SC and we don't really have any of those. Is there anywhere that has a map of the no motor zones. I don't want to accidentally fly through one.
 

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Last year when we went DIY I recall the area we were in was pretty clearly marked on the motor/no motor zone.
 

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Nicely done. It's a blast doing it yourself for certain types.

Now try to move up to bonefish. Much harder to find.

Permit are easy to find in the mid keys. Gets tough from there, though.
 

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I would love to move up to bonefish, but so far I haven't even seen one. I hear they're good at that.
 

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The first time I was in the mid keys I was shocked that some of the "sharks" in the distance turned into bonefish when they got closer.

I'm saying they grow them big down there. Real big. But yeah, they're hard to see for sure.
 
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