Fish Behvior - Tarpon
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  1. #1
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    Fish Behvior - Tarpon

    I went over to Buena Vista Park fishing docks In New Smyrna Beach to check out the high tide water level before the coming hurricane Irma. It was about 2 feet above a normal high tide.



    While there I saw two fishermen at the end of the dock casting as if there was urgency in their casting.

    I walked down to the end and noticed Tarpon; a lot of Tarpon!

    I saw a bunch of 4 -5 foot Tarpon "playing" in the fast incoming river water. They would swim to the surface so the top of their head and tail were out of the water along with their dorsal fin. Then arch their sides to catch the incoming water and ride it until they sank down out of sight. They would soon reappear at the surface and repeat their behavior and resultant river ride! I have never seen that before or heard about it. There were two fishermen there trying to catch one without luck. I probably saw 40 to 50 Tarpon but you could see the dorsal fins across the entire river. I would estimate several hundred?

    Very interesting behavior indeed! Has anyone ever heard or seen a similar behavior?


    What did you do during the hurricane? I watched Tarpon playing in the surf! Only in Florida!

  2. #2
    Senior Member lemaymiami's Avatar
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    If they were holding in moving current (particularly near the mouth of a river, creek, or canal...) they were holding right on the bottom facing into the current - feeding on whatever came their way. All that surfacing behavior (rolling is how most call it...) is simply each fish getting a gulp of air -then turning over and going straight down to the bottom. Tarpon have the ability to gulp air and hold it in their swim bladder - which functions like a primitive lung. They can live in waters with low oxygen content - and most of us that fish them look for that rolling behavior. No matter what you see them doing at the surface - they live on the bottom and won't move very far to come after a bait or lure so you have to slow down and figure out where you have to toss your gear so that it can sink deep enough to be noticed by the fish.... At least that's how I have my anglers do it in the 'Glades when we're fishing big (or small) tarpon holding in rivers that drain into the coast.

    Anyone casting right at rolling fish is looking for frustration since by the time the lure sinks to where the fish are holding.. it's long passed them by... You have to lead them (I tell my anglers to cast across any current past the fish then allow whatever lure or plug we're using to sink down near the bottom before they ever start working the lure.. We do similar things with flies - but that's a different story entirely....

    Hope this helps. Tarpon are pretty much my favorites day in and day out.... Whenever the Park re-opens after Irma - that's where I'll be out of Flamingo - chasing silver....
    Tight Lines
    Bob LeMay
    (954) 435-5666

  3. #3
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    Yes and no to the above.
    Tarpon roll to get air, but they also come to the surface to feed on flushed baits like crabs. Tossing a crab or bait to a rolling tarpon can be very effective, if they are feeding on top. Many times Ive fished for them in 60ft, but use a cork because they are only biting in the first 2ft.
    If they are feeding on bottom than you need to get the bait down to them, using either a jighead or a breakaway weight on copper wire. Breakway gets expensive but also keeps the weight from swinging around and pulling the hook out, or hitting you.

  4. #4
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    Thanks for the replies! Bob, They definitely were not holding their place in the water!
    During their behavior they were being flushed by the current 15 to 20 feet before they would sink down out of sight.
    Weather it was the same fish that reappeared at the surface or a different fish is unknown by me.

    The location of this behavior was about a mile south of Ponce Inlet in about 8 feet of water.
    I saw no indication of active feeding at the surface. I don't know what was going on below two or three feet.

  5. #5
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    Thanks Bob here on my dock in the manatee river top water works
    Good but only at first light or at sunset.. They are small but fun

  6. #6
    Senior Member lemaymiami's Avatar
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    We do hammer rolling fish at the surface (all day long) but only in places with little or no current. When they're in a current things get a bit different.... they don't hold anywhere near the surface. At night, if you've got a nearby bridge with good street lights on it - those same fish will quit rolling and hold right at the surface in the shadows. My first introduction to the night scene was more than 45 years ago now... We still find those night fish under the same bridges all these years later....
    Tight Lines
    Bob LeMay
    (954) 435-5666

  7. #7
    Senior Member permit_me's Avatar
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    i saw that once in the Keys, hundreds and hundreds of fish showing over a football field sized area. i was not sure if they were feeding or stage. Threw crab, pilchard, Doa jerk baits, terror eyes, etc... nada. (that might have been a worm hatch period...). Another Time I saw them in an inlet like that, hooked two and landed one (gulp shrimp and gulp swimming mullet). They were feeding on small baits that day.
    It seems when they feed like that they are most likely keying in on one bait type.
    Yeah Bob, still have vivid memories of fishing the glades with you last fall and watching Elijah land that nice Everglades tarpon...we spent a couple hours hours waiting for those fish to turn on and it was in the mouth of a creek with a good afternoon outgoing tide.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by lemaymiami View Post

    Anyone casting right at rolling fish is looking for frustration since by the time the lure sinks to where the fish are holding.. it's long passed them by... You have to lead them (I tell my anglers to cast across any current past the fish then allow whatever lure or plug we're using to sink down near the bottom before they ever start working the lure.. We do similar things with flies - but that's a different story entirely....
    I'm not doubting your methods, rather I'd say where you cast your baits is greatly influenced by where you are tarpon fishing. When casting to poons moving up and down beach in Boca Grande in May, June, and July...these fish will school and chain in 5ft of water, but mostly found in depths 12ft-20ft. And if you can hit'em on the head with a crab as they roll you're in prime striking position. This is because you're not targeting a fish, you're targeting the entire school. Where one rolls and your bait follows, another will roll in the same spot moments later. Fishing the pass is different. Sure, you'll occasionally get an eater with a flatline out. But majority of the hook ups in the pass come from bottom baits.

    I'll beach fish for poons the same way in south pinellas. These fish move similar to how the BG beach fish move...up and down beach, in between the pass entrances. Toss baits right at'em. But if i'm fishing in hillsborough bay, it's a completely different method, because these fish school and feed completely different. They don't congregate in large schools, thus are more likely to spook when throwing baits on top of them. They stack up under Gandy bridge, but won't roll. They'll cruise the light line at night just under the surface. Definitely have to lead cast at such time cause they'll spoke. Then there are the fish near or up the hillsborough river. These SOBs are the most difficult to get to eat. Very spooky, and very picky eaters.

    So there are different methods of casting to fish for the many different areas where these amazing fish congregate.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Tarponator's Avatar
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    ClassicAQ,

    Bob was talking about casting to fish holding in current, and not in the quiet and relatively tideless waters of the west coast beaches. What's more is that you'd catch more fish if you led the fish as he indicates even along the beaches (except perhaps if they are daisy chaining). As you said, different techniques are required for different areas, but just about all of them require leading fish, and he is dead on correct in suggesting what he did....particularly for the rookie he was talking to who is likely making the mistake most rookies make in casting too close to rolling fish and not leading them enough.

    Take care....Mike

    p.s. the fish do roll at the Gandy (and the HF and the CCC). Just not as much as elsewhere.
    Last edited by Tarponator; 09-14-2017 at 10:37 AM.

  10. #10
    Senior Member lemaymiami's Avatar
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    --One other minor point about silver... wherever you find them - they really, really don't like boat motors at all. Can't remember the number of times I've watched folks running on plane spot tarpon (after nearly scaring them to death...) then shutting down to cast at them... Then they'll wonder why the fish won't eat.... And of course if you're in fish and anyone runs through them, or just close to them... that's the end of things at that spot.... Another of those "ask me how I know" propositions....
    Tight Lines
    Bob LeMay
    (954) 435-5666

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