Originally Posted by juro
I'm far from being an expert but I'm starting to put together some limited intel and I do know this - there are only four places on their mouths where a hook can penetrate - (1) the cleft between the two upper jaws, (2) the cleft between the two lower jaws, (3-4) the corners on each side. If you can pierce the flaps over either corner like a lip-ring that would probably work but let's just call that a corner hook up for the purposes of this discussion. The four main jaw plates are practically impossible to hook never mind hold through the inevitable acrobatics.
Tarpon also have a sort of tongue which a hook can penetrate.
I have not studied this as closely as Juro but if this is true then it probably explains why more fish are lost than landed.
With regard to the take I find that there a number of different scenarios based on how the fish are behaving.
1. Fish cruising the edges of the mangroves.
This happens in my experience everywhere that tarpon live. Florida, Bahamas, Mexico, Cuba, Los Roques etc. These are usually baby tarpon up to 40lbs and are residents.
These fish are looking for food and will snap at a fly and swim off as if stealing something.
2. Schools of tarpon cruising the flats in a circular movement, not daisy chaining but working an area of the flat over an area of maybe several hundred yards. These are normally smaller fish and take like in 1.
3. Laid up fish.
This normally happens in the Keys in the backcountry when there have been a few days of flat calm and warm weather, it can be anytime of year. There the fish bask in the sunshine and quite often just lie there like logs. These fish can be very big, 150+.
A fly placed maybe 3 - 4 ft in front of the tarpon's head and just twitched will normally make the tarpon move very slowly to the fly, come up and suck it in and then very lazily go down to its normal depth. This is when you have to really strike. But the take etc. is soooo exciting.
4. Migrating fish.
I have seen this in mostly in the Keys where pods of fish move up and down the coast. They do not seem to stop but just follow the coast line school after school all on the same line. These are also usually large fish. These fish have normally seen all sorts of flies and lures and bait as there is usually a line of boats trying to catch them but early in the season it is possible to hook these fish. They swim past, if the fly is in their path they may take it and just keep on swimming.
I am sure that there a few situations that I have missed out but with regard to successfully hooking and landing a tarpon I think that there is considerable luck involved in keeping the fish on the hook as in most cases the fish hooks itself.
On one trip to the Keys a few years ago in February we came across a school of laid up tarpon. In one afternoon I hooked and jumped 14 but got none of them to the boat. We went back the next day and I landed 3 fish up to 150lbs. I was totally exhausted.
I am not sure what was more fun.
As far as I am concerned it is great to land a big tarpon every now and again but it is very tiring. I suppose it is important to prove that you can do it.
However I believe that one of the most exciting situations in fly fishing is casting to a big laid up tarpon, seeing the take, trying to get a good hook set and then seeing this fish that is bigger than you are jump out of the water a few feet away from the boat.
It is quite horny.