Tarpon bumping, but not eating, lures -- what does this mean?

One night over the holiday weekend the canals where we live were chock full of juvi tarpon and snook. There are almost always some around at night but there were way more around and you could hear them actively feeding all around. That said I saw some of the tarpon do something I've not witnessed before - I had multiple instances where they charged my lure and just sort of bumped it....didn't look like they even opened their mouth. On one cast I had two of them do it - they both charged it, one took a whack at it and left after which the other one did the same.

What the heck is this about? Were they just in an aggressive mood and being territorial but not interested in eating what I was offering? Is this more common than I thought and maybe I just wasn't aware of it before because I couldn't actually see the fish all the time? Any suggestions on how to convert those 'attacks' into an actual strike?

On the flip side 10 days or so ago I freelined a healthy threadfin around the dock light with a few snook and a couple of tarpon on it and they had zero interest in that bait even though it was going absolutely nuts zipping around on the surface at warp speed.

Replies

  • kmagnusskmagnuss Posts: 2,783 Captain
    Were they swiping at your bait sideways? Sometimes they do that with their mouths open. Or they could have been trying to suck in the bait like they do glass minnows, and due to the weight of the lure and the tension on the line they couldn't get it in their mouths so they figured something was wrong and bailed.
    What lure were you using if you don't mind me asking?

    As for the theaddie... what size hook and leader were you using? Were you using a swivel or barrel connector? Dock light fish are REALLY picky sometimes because they get fished so hard all the time.
    Tarpon... everything else is just bait.
    2017 Tarpon Count: 109/431
    Captain Keith Magnussen - Crooked Rod Charters
    Instagram is @crooked_rod_charters
  • RockyTopRockyTop Posts: 129 Deckhand
    Hey Keith -

    Yes, now that I think about it I believe they were mostly coming at it sideways. Not 100% of them but more did than didn't so maybe you're right about that. The lure was a 2 3/4" floating Yozuri Pins Minnow. As with our discussion about the tiny terrors - the hooks on the lure were woefully inadequate for this application. One fish and the rear treble broke. Replaced them with some small singles I had on hand that seemed a bit more substantial. Didn't change the way the bait moves enough for my eye to pick up on it but it did seem that I got less interest after I changed the hooks.

    On the threadfin I used a 1/0 octopus hook tied directly to 20# flouro leader that was maybe 2' long. The thread was in the range of 6" long and swam around like it wasn't even attached to anything. The fish were just hanging out watching it zip around on the surface at about 100 mph. I was really surprised that it wasn't annihilated right away.
  • kmagnusskmagnuss Posts: 2,783 Captain
    Maybe try using a 4' long leader minimum next time... I usually use closer to 6'. I definitely can tell a difference as the leader gets shorter... and when it gets to about 3' is when I retie.

    You could always try tossing a fly at them... seems to work well sometimes.

    I'd try a regular size terroreyz for awhile and also a 7" Hogy worked really slow with a pause in the retrieve now and again... they always hit on the pause. Like when you go to swat a mosquito off your face.
    Tarpon... everything else is just bait.
    2017 Tarpon Count: 109/431
    Captain Keith Magnussen - Crooked Rod Charters
    Instagram is @crooked_rod_charters
  • BaitsnacherBaitsnacher Posts: 74 Greenhorn
    Thanks for the info I've had the same trouble here on the Braden river using
    Pins minnow.. Going to use a longer leader now tonight. The morning with a
    Top water has been fun and I dont care if I land the little guys or not.
  • RockyTopRockyTop Posts: 129 Deckhand
    Thanks Keith.

    I've thrown the terroreyez you gave me some but I should probably throw it more. Haven't gotten a reaction to it yet that I know of.

    I've thrown soft plastic baits that I think of as the same basic lure as the Hogy in this setting a lot and hooked more fish on a particular 5" version of that than any other bait which is good and bad. It makes it hard to try other baits but I did feel like the fish were getting conditioned to seeing it night after night which is what lead me to throw the Pins Minnow. Something different. I have had some canal fish react to larger plastic swim baits but usually not around dock lights at night.

    You might be right about using longer leader around dock lights with a freelined bait. Have to give that a try.
  • restlessnativerestlessnative Posts: 2,010 Captain
    A 6" threadie is too big for dock light fishing, at least in my experience. Your best bet for that is a small fly like Keith mentioned. As for the juvi's at night, try smaller artis and a longer, lighter leader as suggested. Or a three horned shrimp will do the trick �� (Only kidding of course)
  • RockyTopRockyTop Posts: 129 Deckhand
    A 6" threadie is too big for dock light fishing, at least in my experience. Your best bet for that is a small fly like Keith mentioned. As for the juvi's at night, try smaller artis and a longer, lighter leader as suggested. Or a three horned shrimp will do the trick �� (Only kidding of course)

    While there is no doubt that the fish around dock lights are usually keying on small bait and small artificials are what I use to target them for the most part some of my best snook and tarpon in the canals have come on threads in that size range. I have also hooked some of my larger tarpon in the canals on larger Hogy type baits too....but they weren't on dock lights when that happened. You might not get as many hits on them but when you do odds are good that it will be one of the bigger fish in the area. In my experience that is generally the way it is with larger baits...although in reality a 6" bait is not "big" for a 10-30 lb tarpon or a slot size snook (imho).

    I've tried the fly thing a few times and I'm sure it can be very effective but I'm not proficient enough with the long rod to present the fly delicately enough to prevent spooking them around the dock lights - as you are probably aware they are just super, super skittish around the dock lights -- almost anything at all will spook them and blow the spot up for a while.
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