tarpon jumping observations

clampmanclampman Posts: 130 Officer
Permit Rat posted in another tarpon thread about deep water tarpon. I've also noticed something about tarpon jumping myself.

One of my "happy hour" spots is a channel that drains a number of good flats that is often very productive shortly after the current change to outgoing.

There are often bait fishermen there with live crabs 4 or 5 feet down from bobbers. They sit there with the rod in rod holders just waiting for the bite. I've seen a great many tarpon of all sizes hooked there, and very few - not even the smaller ones under 80 lbs - jump more than once (and most never jump at all) when hooked on live crabs.

But on the fly, nearly all but the very large ones, jump often and spectacularly. So what I'm guessing is that gut-hooked fish simply don't jump. Why that is I certainly don't know.

Maybe feeling the hook in their jaws prompts them to jump and try to sling it out, but feelling it in their gut doesn't elicit the same response?

Anyone else ever notice this?

Cheers,
Jim

Replies

  • Permit RatPermit Rat Posts: 2,283 Captain
    Jim, I have to confess to never having used live crabs for tarpon. In slow current situations, I put a pinfish beneath a breakaway float, set the drag, locked the reel and simply put the rod in a rod holder. We never set the hook when a tarpon took and did not even pick up the rod until the fish was a distance away from the boat. In fast current conditions, I switched baits to mullet, but the rest of my techique was the same.

    I know that we never gut hooked a tarpon. Do you know for sure that the fish you saw, actually swallowed the baits? If so, all I can say from my own experience, is that gut hooked fish (most notably billfish) often do not jump......sometimes not at all, but certainly not to the same extent as fish hooked in the mouth.

    Another thing about tarpon, is that the more pressure you are able to put on them, the more they will jump. At least, this is my experience. Aside from fishing in the harbor, which I rarely did in later years, my live-baiting water was rarely more than 12 feet deep. Six to eight is a better average.
    .......Rick
  • clampmanclampman Posts: 130 Officer
    Permit Rat wrote: »

    I know that we never gut hooked a tarpon. Do you know for sure that the fish you saw, actually swallowed the baits?

    Permit,

    No, I don't know. And, in fact, it could well be that they were not pressuring the fish hard enough even though most were using conventional gear as opposed to spinning. They were not using breakaway bobbers either-though I don't know if that would make any difference. For all I know, they could have been using circle hooks too.

    It just seemed very odd to me that they weren't getting the jumps that we normally do. I certainly agree with you on the pressure thing, and also think that a high pull angle combined with the pressure makes a difference too. Hopefully, that is why theirs rarely jumped. I have only hooked them by accident on conventional gear when night fishing for grouper off bridges. But I never caught one that way. They always got off immediately on the first jump.

    My only experience with non-jumping sailfish is limited to one which I hooked with a stff-rigged tandem fly that hooked him both inside and outside the mouth on opposite jaws and immediately began suffocating him. All he did was shake his head repeatedly then run a very short distance before stopping to shake his head some more. It was a very short "fight" if it could be called that.

    Thanks for your input. Perhaps they are more delicate eaters than I thought.

    PS: I hear from a buddy that recently moved up your way that you got some unbelievable sailfishing.

    Cheers,
    Jim
  • WPHornWPHorn Posts: 60 Deckhand
    I concur with Permit Rat's observation: pressure on tarpon equals jumps. Have watched guys with fly rods and lighter tippets "nagging" a hooked tarpon and getting few if any jumps. And a lot of the bait fishers (the beginners) fight the tarpon with the classic raised up rod putting only a couple of pounds of pressure on the fish -- and getting no jumps. In contrast, in my experience the down and dirty nearly straight rod pull with a fly rod puts serious heat on the fish and prompts lots of jumps.
  • deerflydeerfly Posts: 722 Officer
    I can't tell you how many times I've watched a hooked tarpon making a wide circle jumping and thrashing around doing it's thing while I'm still reeling like mad trying to get the slack out of the line. In my experience the depth of the water seems to have more to do with jumping than how or what I hooked them with. The deeper the water the less they tend to jump and the shallower the water the more they're likely to jump.

    I would think if maximum pressure always translated into jumps you'd see an awful lot more jumping going on in places like Boca Grande where the average tackle employed can apply 2-3x the pressure of a 12wt outfit with 20lb class tippet and those fish rarely jump more than a few times. The overwhelming majority of the fight is spent chasing the fish down deep with the rod bent into the reel seat, which has been my experience in deep water too and is exactly why that style of tarpon fishing doesn't appeal to me.

    Regardless of why they jump though, there's an old saw... if you hook a tarpon that doesn't jump, break him off and go find one you can catch. ;)
    "impossibility cannot be concluded from a sample of failed efforts" - Edsger W. Dijkstra
  • clampmanclampman Posts: 130 Officer
    I can't tell you how many times I've watched a hooked tarpon making a wide circle jumping and thrashing around doing it's thing while I'm still reeling like mad trying to get the slack out of the line.

    :grin Great description! Or him doing panicked figure 8's then you getting a slack line and wondering is he on his way into the boat with you.

    Certainly water depth is the biggest factor. But in the instance I was talking about, the water depth was the same. Permit Rat and WP got me to thinking though, and it could also be that the anglers never pushed the button on the lever drags to increase it from the initial 'strike" setting the guides put them at originally.
    And a lot of the bait fishers (the beginners) fight the tarpon with the classic raised up rod putting only a couple of pounds of pressure on the fish. In contrast, in my experience the down and dirty nearly straight rod pull with a fly rod puts serious heat on the fish and prompts lots of jumps.

    WP, I think that the description of the classic rased rod is a little bit confusing - though I'm sure many newcomers are fishing too light a drag.

    The further from a straight line pull on the reel that the rod gets, the more pressure is put on the fish for the same drag setting (and the more it puts on the angler's bicept).

    Out of curiousity, I just reverse engineer tested my 12 wt by dead lifting 8 lbs of barbells off the ground while standing on my deck and holding the rod handle parallel to the ground (which would be exactly vertical at the butt when fishing).

    With that setting the line came out of the tip top 4 foot three inches away from the butt. The actual drag setting I then checked on my balance scales at exactly 5 lbs straight pull of drag off the reel.

    Everybody has his own way of fighting fish, and I like a high pull angle early in the fight and during the first run on tarpon. I think, but certainly can't prove, that it helps to get them jumping - those with the right personality, of course. I also think it helps in keeping the line aiming a little straighter toward the fish. How often have you heard new guys say, "Hey, there's another one jumping way over there!"

    Ahh, it's all good - except for this ****ing wind.

    Cheers,
    Jim
  • TarponatorTarponator Under a BridgePosts: 11,374 AG
    I've hooked lots of tarpon on live bait and more than a few on flies too. I don't notice any difference in jumping between the two types of baits.

    I do, however, notice a great deal of variability associated with (a) water depth, and (b) fish size. Shallow water and small fish both lead to more jumps, in my experience.

    Of course, we're talking about tarpon, a fish which loves to break rules, but in general the above applies.
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