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Tarpon on the beach over sandbars?

Sage ManSage Man Posts: 195 Officer
We live on the northern Gulf Coast of Florida. Every year I get good shots at tarpon on the fly...and every year they snub me.

This is in water 6 - 10 feet, relatively clear to gin clear, over a sand bottom. I know we all have our favorite patterns but as a starting point...do I think light or dark colors?

Replies

  • Flat LinerFlat Liner Posts: 84 Deckhand
    I have always had the best luck with white or light colors on the beach as its usually white bait hanging around beaches, thats my .02
  • Capt. Gregg McKeeCapt. Gregg McKee Posts: 202 Deckhand
    I've had luck over white sand in a lot of locations, from the Caribbean to SW FL, with a lot of different colors, from all white to all black, and it almost always boils down to presentation. You've got to have the fly in the right spot to get them to eat in clear water, especially in the middle of the day. There has been a ton written on this so I don't need to throw in my thoughts on it. Also, leader length and construction has much to do with fooling a tarpon and again, there's piles of info out there about this. That said, try a chartreuse Toad on a 1/0 hook and go from there.
  • cast4tailerscast4tailers Posts: 6 Greenhorn
    In general, start off the early sunrise fish with a darker colored fly (black/purple for example). Stick with this until the sun gets higher in the sky, once you can see the bodies of individual fish and it's clear out go to a lighter colored pattern. If it stays cloudy then I typically stay with a dark fly. Mid day is the tricky part and I like to go very small and sparse-again if it's clear and sunny. Evening time I go back to a dark pattern. Seems like every year my flies are getting smaller and leaders are getting longer....

    By far, more than color or size is the relation of the fish to the fly. It can be a game of inches, then factor in retrieve, figure this out and your chances of success go to your favor very quickly. Also, try to find a lane and anchor up or stake out instead of chasing fish over the sand.

    This scenario can change from day to day but this has been my typical experience fishing gin clear sand flats from 3-9ft deep.




    Capt. Colby Hane
  • Permit RatPermit Rat Posts: 2,283 Captain
    We fish a lot of tarpon over sand in the Lower Keys. My take is that presentation is the most important factor. (along with fishing pressure.)

    By presentation, I mean fly depth. With a tarpon's eyes located so high on their head, they do not see a fly that is more than a few inches below eye level. Combine that with the general consensus that like us, it hurts a tarpon's eyes to look anywhere near the sun, and that can prevent (depending on the height of the sun) them from seeing a fly that is much above eye level. Draw a line between the upper and lower "limits" and you have a pretty small optimal window. Hence fly depth is critical, once the sun comes up. As already said, overcast days are usually much more productive, along with the hours of low light.
    .......Rick
  • Sage ManSage Man Posts: 195 Officer
    Thanks to all of ya'll for your responses. That gives me a starting point with fly selection but I'm picking up that there's a whole lot of other nuances I need to master.
  • jaymjaym Posts: 118 Deckhand
    Permit Rat wrote: »
    We fish a lot of tarpon over sand in the Lower Keys. My take is that presentation is the most important factor. (along with fishing pressure.)

    By presentation, I mean fly depth. With a tarpon's eyes located so high on their head, they do not see a fly that is more than a few inches below eye level. Combine that with the general consensus that like us, it hurts a tarpon's eyes to look anywhere near the sun, and that can prevent (depending on the height of the sun) them from seeing a fly that is much above eye level. Draw a line between the upper and lower "limits" and you have a pretty small optimal window. Hence fly depth is critical, once the sun comes up. As already said, overcast days are usually much more productive, along with the hours of low light.

    Like Permit Rat says pressure has an impact also. If you are throwing at fish that have been bombarded up and down the beach the odds are very slim especially if they are moving quick. If the slow down and start milling you may have a better shot. As far as flies. Everybody has their favorites. What is listed above are good options. The best opinion I will give you is do not chase the fish. Let them swim to you or intercept them on their route. If they get by you let them swim. If they stop and relax then pole over to them. How deep are the fish you are throwing at? Are they hugging the bottom in 8 feet or are they high and happy?
  • Sage ManSage Man Posts: 195 Officer
    The ones I saw last summer were in 8 -10 feet of water. I'm not the best judge but it seems like they're halfway between the surface or a little higher in the water. The one thing I pick up on what you're saying is they're not just milling around...they're MOVING ON. Somebody told me they didn't think tarpon are comfortable over sand in crystal clear water so they don't feed so much as just haul tail to get out of there. Does that sound right?

    I know the big thing is sight fishing for them in clear water so I'm not sure about that.

    One thing I've picked up is the importance of dark colors early, lighter later.
  • Permit RatPermit Rat Posts: 2,283 Captain
    Tarpon have no fear or anxiety for being over sand. I have seen them come into sand when there was darker bottom on both sides of them. Deeper water on one side too. In fact, I think the tarpon like the sand, since the sharks can't hide nearly as well when over sand. At least the tarpon can see them sooner and get a head start on them. On top of that, back in the days before they were pressured like Hell every day, we hooked about 75% of our fish over sand. Newer clients can obviously see what's going on when there's a sand bottom, and in those days, most clients were new to the game and needed all the help they could get.

    What tarpon don't like, is wind and waves, the latter being caused by the former. Think about it and you'll see tarpon moving with much more "purpose," on windy days and they will be at least 1/3 the way down in the water column, since that is the general depth that a wave affects the water, and the tarpon will want to be below that depth, no matter whether this means they are hugging the bottom in 4 feet of water, or 2/3 the way up in 8 feet of water.

    Oh...IMO, whoever said not to follow a school of tarpon, was pretty much right on......especially if there are other boats fishing them. Sometimes on really slow days, in between waves of the migration, if there were no other boats around (fat chance) I might go for another shot at a school of fish. But I always took great care to idle straight out, get on plane and go waaayyy out and much deeper, around the fish and idle back in to their depth, about 1/2 mile above the school. You want to give them plenty of time to settle down again, before trying to present.
    .......Rick
  • Sage ManSage Man Posts: 195 Officer
    Thanks Permit Rat...you guys are awesome on here. We're up in the Panhandle so we don't see tarpon but once a year (as far as I know) so I've got time to get my ducks in a row before next spring.

    I know this much...I've never been as excited as I am standing on the bow with tarpon coming at me. I guess if you don't like that you need to take up golf or tennis.

    Thanks again for everyone's insights. This is an awesome place.
  • DPrestonDPreston Posts: 153 Officer
    Some great stuff in this thread...is it March yet?
  • Sage ManSage Man Posts: 195 Officer
    I know...we don't get them up our way until May or so. I went trout fishing the other day and the stupid tarpon ruined it for me. All I was thinking about was tarpon.

    As I said, there's some great guys who post on here and it always amazes me how willing they are to share stuff...maybe not GPS coordinates but you know what I mean.
  • MD.MD. Posts: 37 Deckhand
    By far, more than color or size is the relation of the fish to the fly. It can be a game of inches, then factor in retrieve, figure this out and your chances of success go to your favor very quickly. Also, try to find a lane and anchor up or stake out instead of chasing fish over the sand.

    This scenario can change from day to day but this has been my typical experience fishing gin clear sand flats from 3-9ft deep.




    Capt. Colby Hane

    This....From what I've learned the most perfect magical tarpon fly isn't going to do you any good unless you can put it in the sweet spot and make it dance to the ****'s liking (can be extremely frustrating). Prestentation > fly, really i think its like this with all fish.
  • Permit RatPermit Rat Posts: 2,283 Captain
    Sage Man wrote: »
    I know...we don't get them up our way until May or so. I went trout fishing the other day and the stupid tarpon ruined it for me. All I was thinking about was tarpon.

    Sage Man....Just for grins, try looking for tarpon whenever you have a spell of really good weather, even in February or March. By this I mean no cold fronts and light winds for at least 4 days. Water temp should be well above 70, more like about 74 degrees.

    It has long been my contention that since the warming trend began in the Gulf of Mexico (about 1980, according to NASA) that there are now at least two major bodies of tarpon. One goes down to Central America, just like they always have, but the other pretty much just circles the Gulf coast. (This was supported by a separate IGFA tagging program, some 5-6 years ago.)

    What this would mean, is that tarpon are now migrating 365 days of the year, instead of being held up in the south, by cold water in the north (Gulf). So a period of warm calm weather, almost no matter what time of the year it was, might be enough to lull them into the shallows. This has already been happening in January around Key West, since I can remember.
    .......Rick
  • Sage ManSage Man Posts: 195 Officer
    OK...that's great stuff.

    You know what? Maybe if I got out there a little earlier than everybody else, maybe I could find just one dumb one :full That's all I need. I'll take your advice to heart and go look earlier than normal.

    Again, not to beat a dead horse, but thanks to you and everyone on this site. It's a great place for sharing info.

    Now...on another topic...if my Tide can just beat LSU, I'll be a happy camper.
  • maverick29maverick29 Posts: 15 Greenhorn
    What tarpon don't like, is wind and waves, the latter being caused by the former. Think about it and you'll see tarpon moving with much more "purpose," on windy days and they will be at least 1/3 the way down in the water column, since that is the general depth that a wave affects the water, and the tarpon will want to be below that depth, no matter whether this means they are hugging the bottom in 4 feet of water, or 2/3 the way up in 8 feet of water.




    I've never heard this mentioned.

    U might try setting up just off the bar in darker water. Kinda guage setting up where the fly meets the water just as the tarpon gets in the darker bottom then start your presentation
  • Sage ManSage Man Posts: 195 Officer
    Thanks Maverick. The specific place I've been fishing lends itself well to this approach.
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