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Eric 04-11-2002 02:37 PM

Western/south western Florida Baby Tarpon
For a long time I've been wanting to try my hand at baby tarpon (4 - 40 lbs) and was wondering what the possibilies were in the Gulf off Florida.

What are the seasons? What are the most welcoming regions for beginners and how much should I be expecting to pay, both as a guided client and as a self-directed angler. What are the options?

What's the weather like during the best seasons; how hard is it to find fish; how hard is it to find accomodations during peak season; how bad is the fishing during the off-seasons; etc.

Any background or advice on this that anyone has would be greatly appreciated.



Capt. Mel Simpson 04-11-2002 09:30 PM

Baby Tarpon
There really isn't a major baby tarpon fishery on this coast that I'm aware of. Now, there are some canals and other protected areas that will hold them at times, like during unusually warm winter periods. Mostly I leave them alone and that has something to do with the fact that we are mostly giant tarpon fisherman.

You probably know that we have the world record fish here in this area each May thru July, they average 125lbs, so you can see they kind of get our attention.

I can see my customers enjoying a day where we found snook, redfish and then had some shots at baby tarpon also but it just dosn't happen.

Good Luck, Mel

juro 04-11-2002 10:37 PM

I see where Eric is coming from... first of all, steelheaders, salmon fishermen and striper guyz are used to that size of fish. Second, our flygear matches it well. Third, for me anyway four 15 minute fights where the fish never gets exhausted is more fun than a one hour fight where the fish must be beat to be boated.

Easy for me to say, I know - kind of like someone coming to steelhead country and saying wow those are some nice 3 pound cutthroats! :devil:

Eric 04-12-2002 11:14 AM

Maybe I didn't ask the right questions...
Thanks, Mel,

Your response, and the lack of others, make me think I must be asking the wrong questions.

Where would be a good place to go for baby tarpon? When would the best times be? How expensive is it -- who are the "best" captains for the novice who is just looking for some high-flying excitement with small to medium sized fish? What about accomodations during peak versus just-off-peak seasons, etc. Any info would be greatly appreciated.

Juro is right. My orientation is to steelhead and salmon, albeit with the occasional sea-run cutthroat thrown in. I'd love to tangle with some high-flying tarpon on tackle I'm used to. That way, I could certainly do some side-by-side comparisons with what I'm familiar with.



Capt. Mel Simpson 04-12-2002 03:56 PM

A comparative
I just spent the last 20 minutes writing and trying to explain why you can't compare steelhead to saltwater fly fishing. I gave up and deleted it all.
In the 70's when I first started saltwater flyfishing, and still living in Oregon, I would ask the same questions, and got very few answers.
Let me ask a question, how many hours has it taken you to catch the steelhead you have landed? .....So standing on the deck of a flatsboat all day for a shot at jumping a giant tarpon does not sound so bad does it?
Fighting a hot 20lb Dean River steelhead may take me a half hour, that's 40 lbs an hour! A 125 lb tarpon may take me an hour, that's 125 lbs per hour, right?
Can you compare? I don't think so.
You can use your steelhead rods, other than spey, for snook, redfish, bonefish, permit and yes baby tarpon, but that's as far as it goes, they're really just tools used in a different way in saltwater.
If you are wondering about equipment, any good fly fishing guide has good fly fishing gear.
I'm a saltwater guide who grew up steelhead fly fishing, and I will share all of my knowledge about either, and if I didn't answere your questions just ask again.


Eric 04-12-2002 06:39 PM

Any chance you could undelete what you deleted? I would be very interested in what you have to say about why you can't make a meaningful comparison between the two fisheries. I was thinking more about the tackle and size of fish than I was about feeding versus non-feeding fish, river currents, holding water, and all the rest of the steelhead stuff.

I've done a bit of salt-water fly-fishing for salmon in estuaries and bays and have watched a couple of videos on tarpon. Looks like fun to me and I'd like to try it.

But, I also would like to hook, play and land a few fish. I just assumed I'd have more action and success with the smaller sizes of tarpon.

Thanks for your help,


FlyFishAR 04-12-2002 09:06 PM

Big minnow fishing

I will be in Marathon around the time of the Holly. I have a ton of questions if you don't mind taking the time to share your expertise. Maybe via fax or phone, I don't really enjoy typing 3 page emails. We have a house there for a month (thanks to the new ordinance). So I hope we will be getting in our fair share of fishing time.

John W. Wilson

Capt. Mel Simpson 04-12-2002 09:57 PM

John, email me and I'll give you my phone number.

Eric, everything about saltwater is different from steelhead, with the exception of I can use an 890 rod for both, given the same size of fish as I explained before. This is some of what I mean:
We usually fish from a boat, we sight cast to moving fish, we move the fly by stripping, we strip strike to hook the fish. We use different fly lines that are stiffer, we cast quickly with 1 to 3 false casts and that may be 60' to 80'. We stand with the fly and leader in our left hand, the belly of the fly line hanging from the tip top, and it's "fish at 10 o'clock 55' cast, now" type of attentativeness required and that may be after standing trying to see fish for long perids of time.
All of this is probably in 85 to 90 degree temperatures with 95 to 100 percent humidity with a 10 to 15 mph wind that is not always coming off your non casting shoulder. Again, you can not take your eyes off the fish you are trying to see, no you do not look at the water, you look through it.
The biggest difference is how easy it is to waste "windows of opportunities". You spend long periods of time stareing and searching for fish and just like that there they are and you screw up the cast and you never get that "window of opportunity" back.
And then there is the fighting of a fish that can run under or around cover to cut you off and can run anywhere even in a 360 degree circle, or head for Cuba as we say.
I love steelhead fly fishing because of the fish, the rivers, especially big rivers, but I find saltwater fly fishing more than just long casts, and pretty flies. I find saltwater requires a more continual mental focus and I like that!

Man, I rambled on way too much.


pmflyfisher 04-13-2002 03:26 AM


Good post, yes that is what I always thought tarpon fishing was like. Good description. Well at least it is warm no waders or any walking and wading required in frigid rivers like us steelheaders have to endure. I don't think I would want to use my steelhead rods for tarpon though. 7/8/9 weights but would want at least a 10 weight even for the baby tarpon, just in case I hooked into a bigger one.


P.S. Woke up at 3 AM couldn't sleep went down stairs to get something to drink, saw the computer on, (teenage sons!!), and decided to see if I would have the forumn all to myself, you know how we all wish for our favorite pool or run as you arrive at the fishing locations, well there was one other member on but no visitors. Can't even cyber FF in solitude any more. :( :(

Eric 04-15-2002 04:21 PM

Thanks, Mel,

I guess that's what I needed to hear. Obviously, tarpon are not something I would ever want to pursue, given the grim picture you paint. It wouldn't be so much the concentration, casting and technique, as it would the blistering conditions. I don't do well in heat, which is why I live in the northwest.



Pat Bahan 06-02-2002 07:17 PM

I am going to have to respectfully differ with some of what I have been reading on this post. Actually I'm not saying it is wrong as far as it goes, its just not the whole story. Back in the late 60s & 70s I used to get to the keys & back country a couple times a year. We had a lot of fun with baby tarpon and it was more like bass fishing than the flats sight fishing previously described. (then in the mid 70s I got the West Coast mega tarpon bug and did that for a while) I haven't been down there in 20 years but I can't immagine that the small and baby tarpon fishing isn't still to be had.
And buy the way, when you are in the Mangrove "creeks" you are frequently protected from the wind and can enjoy casting conditions when the flats are howling.;)

Eric 06-03-2002 10:23 AM

Thanks for the second opinion. This is sort of what I was hoping for. I just wanted some recreational fishing, where I might catch a couple of fish of modest size on light tackle and have some fun doing it. I don't really have the time, resources or opportunity to develop the skill it would take to pursue giant tarpon.



wind roper 01-17-2005 12:18 PM

what area are you going to be in? i know some great spots for tarpon in the 5 to 50lb range. if you are going to be in the ft. myers area or naples area then you will want to fish small deceivers around the us-41 bridge of the estero river(packed full of babies) behind the hotel at the us-41 bridge at tin city in naples, or along the road (951) to marco island.the marco bridge holds a ton of tarpon year round from the 30lb-200+lb range at night you can poke them with your rod tip under the cat walk under the bridge, the current is a bit of a problem there though.

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