Flats Hunter 101: Finding Tarpon
Like bonefish, tarpon are sensitive to cold water. In the wintertime it is exceedingly difficult to find fish on the flats. As spring approaches and the water temperatures rise, the tarpon begin their migration to the flats where they are more easily spotted.
You can search for tarpon in one of two primary ways. The first and most common is to pole your way along a flat while searching for any signs of fish. The second way requires more local knowledge of the water and the tarpon’s migration routes. Many guides that are intricately familiar with the movement of tarpon in the Keys stake off in an area that intersects the path of migrating fish and simply wait for the tarpon to come to them.
In clear water you can scan the flat for tarpon either in schools or singles. Due to their massive size they are not difficult to spot in clear water. Look for a dark irregularity in the water that could be the shape of a tarpon. Carefully observe the surface for any wake, or nervous water caused by fish near the surface. A pack of tarpon lazily cruising along the flats almost looks like a group of submarines lumbering off to war.
Tarpon are also easily spotted from a distance when they are rolling. Tarpon roll to breath air from the surface and can be spotted rolling in calm water from nearly half a mile. Once you have spotted rolling tarpon you can then determine their path and the best way to intercept.
Casting to Tarpon