Baby tarpon a few years ago were a rarity in Tampa Bay, but that has certainly changed. To find them, find bait and moving water. Fishing at night is the key. Snook, redfish, snapper and trout are the usual customers frequenting lights, but tarpon will be there, too. Lights near structure, docks, bridges and marinas are a good place to start. Be very cautious on your approach. Watch the lighted area from a distance and use an electric motor at a very slow speed. You will see the fish chasing bait. Good tidal flow is needed to get these fish to accept your offering. This is strictly a sight-fishing situation where long, accurate casts are needed. Small white baitfish patterns with a fly rod would be our choice. If you can’t do a saltwater quick cast, get a good casting instructor to help perfect your technique. This will help in all saltwater sight-fly casting. If you’re not a night person and you want other baby tarpon choices, explore the many rivers that go into the bay and gulf. Early morning and early evening will bring these silver rockets rolling on the surface. If they do not show, cast the same baitfish patterns around the above-mentioned structure. If there is no surface activity, use a full sinking line, as these elusive fish will spend most of their time close to the bottom. When you find one, more will be nearby.
Fly fisherman Pat Damico charters lower Tampa Bay and can be reached at captpat.com and (727) 504-8649.