Tarpon observation

i was fishing for tarpon the other night under a light and could see them feeding on something but couldn't get a bite on live bait. After a few hours of frustration snuck in a little closer to observe and watched them only eat needlefish that would cross through the light. Tarpon only eating needlefish talk about survive and adapt I would've never thought about using a needlefish.

Replies

  • TarponatorTarponator Under a BridgePosts: 11,254 AG
    Tarpon can get VERY focused on eating a particular bait, and refuse all others -- even other types of bait they normally eat. That's just the way they are.

    For instance, sometimes in the late summer when we get fry in the bay, they will ignore all bigger baits. Another example is crabs. I challenge you to catch a tarpon at night at one of the bridges in the bay with one, but go to the skyway, and all of a sudden they become the go-to bait. There are crabs at both bridges, so why will they eat one in one place and not in another?

    Beats the crap out of me, but it's absolutely been my experience -- just as you've observed. So it comes as absolutely no surprise to read that you've observed tarpon eating needlefish and refusing everything else.

    The way I often describe it is using an analogy: If you went to McDonalds and were served a steak, you'd probably wonder what was going on -- but if you got served a Big Mac, you'd likely eat it without question. Similarly, tarpon, I think, are expecting a certain thing to eat in certain places (and, to make matters worse, sometimes it even varies by time of day), and when they get something they don't expect they often simply refuse to eat it and remain focused on what they were eating.

    That said, if I were faced with the situation you described, I'd get a small jerkbait about the same size as the needlefish, and fish it unweighted and close to the surface, and try to fool them with it -- particularly a bit away from the light where they will feed more on the silhouette and you stand a better chance of getting them to bite.

    All of the above IMO and based on my experience -- your mileage may vary. :)
  • Chawk20Chawk20 Posts: 55 Deckhand
    Tarponator wrote: »
    Tarpon can get VERY focused on eating a particular bait, and refuse all others -- even other types of bait they normally eat. That's just the way they are.

    For instance, sometimes in the late summer when we get fry in the bay, they will ignore all bigger baits. Another example is crabs. I challenge you to catch a tarpon at night at one of the bridges in the bay with one, but go to the skyway, and all of a sudden they become the go-to bait. There are crabs at both bridges, so why will they eat one in one place and not in another?

    Beats the crap out of me, but it's absolutely been my experience -- just as you've observed. So it comes as absolutely no surprise to read that you've observed tarpon eating needlefish and refusing everything else.

    The way I often describe it is using an analogy: If you went to McDonalds and were served a steak, you'd probably wonder what was going on -- but if you got served a Big Mac, you'd likely eat it without question. Similarly, tarpon, I think, are expecting a certain thing to eat in certain places (and, to make matters worse, sometimes it even varies by time of day), and when they get something they don't expect they often simply refuse to eat it and remain focused on what they were eating.

    That said, if I were faced with the situation you described, I'd get a small jerkbait about the same size as the needlefish, and fish it unweighted and close to the surface, and try to fool them with it -- particularly a bit away from the light where they will feed more on the silhouette and you stand a better chance of getting them to bite.

    All of the above IMO and based on my experience -- your mileage may vary. :)

    Had another situation like this a few years ago when the red anchovies where schooled up in the channel. A fly fisherman may have been able to catch one but a tarpon eating one anchovie imitation when there's multiple schools of millions seems to me unlikely.

    Have you ever heard or witnessed anything eat a needlefish? I may have seen a red chase one before but choose not to belive what my eyes just saw. I can see clearly now...but you won't see a needlefish in my bait well all the time.
  • TarponatorTarponator Under a BridgePosts: 11,254 AG
    Snook will occasionally eat them too under the lights of a dock.

    FWIW, I've tried to use them as bait. They die way too fast in my experience to be effective -- thus my suggestion to use an artificial that mimics them.
  • stpetebaitmanstpetebaitman Posts: 893 Officer
    When fishing at night use only dark colors (Black, purple, brown). The fish key in on silhouettes. I would use a black hogy about the same size as the ballyhoo or needle fish if you ever see them do that again.

    I also agree with what Mike said. I have seen them behave the same way with fry bait and glass minnows.
  • underwaterunderwater Posts: 113 Officer
    That is a cool and interesting observation.

    A needlefish just cruising the surface must make for an easy meal for a tarpon.
  • Chawk20Chawk20 Posts: 55 Deckhand
    It would be interesting to find out if this is normal behavior or if fishing pressure made the local fish get a little more smarter and realized a needlefish never has a hook in it. I wouldn't think a migrating fish would be impacted in a way as the local fish would.

    I have witnessed a bass do this off my dock. We feed the bream and shiners off the dock which brought in this one bass that hangs around. The bass was caught several times off of bream and shiners through out several months time(same bass) then one day it was quit evident that he had no interest in the wounded hooked bream but would shoot through the bream that were eating the bread on top.

    I know it's not an identical situation, but the fish did get smarter and adapted in what I would consider a short time.
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