A fly angler fishing with me on my Action Craft flats skiff, the Snook Fin-Addict out of CB's Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key, had good action with tarpon in the coastal gulf in Sarasota during the week of June 30.
Frank Zaffino, from Rochester, N.Y., fly-fished for tarpon several days with me last week. The goal was tarpon on a fly, and he did well, especially since it was his first time targeting tarpon. July 1 was a great day with lots of shots, and Zaffino caught and released his first tarpon, an estimated 90-pounder.
Shots were fewer July 2, and our day ended when a thunderstorm pushed through, roughing up the water. Tarpon fishing is usually a waiting game, much like hunting whitetail deer or turkeys, so we often see other things along the way. Over several days, we saw bull and hammerhead sharks and manatees and had a shot at a couple of cobia while we waited for tarpon.
Conditions deteriorated July 3 as a stiff west wind made it rough. Zaffino hung in there and made his shots count, hooking up with another tarpon, an estimated 70-pounder, and successfully catching and releasing the fish on the last cast of the day. Going 2-for-2 on tarpon with a fly, especially on your first attempt, priceless!
Tarpon fishing should remain strong this week as we head toward a full moon. Large schools of tarpon should become more plentiful as they prepare to head offshore to spawn. Catch-and-release snook fishing also should be good in passes and around docks and bridges close to passes. You should find reds and big trout on shallow flats or edges of bars in Sarasota Bay or fish deep grass flats for trout, blues and more.
Capt. Rick Grassett
Snook Fin-Addict Guide Service, Inc.
Make no mistake about it -- it's hot out there, but the fishing can be just as hot as the temperature if you're at the right spot at the right time. Variety might be the name of the game, but quality fish also are being caught in lower Tampa Bay right now. The areas we have been fishing include shallow grass flats, sand bars, deep grass, limestone hard bottom, shell bottom and sand bottom in depths ranging from 2 to 14 feet of water. Anglers aboard my Action Craft flats skiff, Flat Back II, caught snook, spotted seatrout, silver trout, flounder, permit, tarpon, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, mangrove snapper, gag and red grouper, black seabass and even a few lesser desirables like hardhead and gaff top sail cats, puffers, pinfish, grunts, jacks, ladyfish, lizardfish and puffers.
The lures we used throughout the day were mostly subsurface in the numerous locations that we fished, except for the early morning topwater bite. Jigs ruled in deeper open water, using CAL Jigs with Shad tails on ¼-ounce jig heads, and MirrOlure Lil' John jerk baits on both1/4-ounce and 1/16-ounce jig heads. Anglers caught silver and speckled trout, flounder, bluefish, gag grouper, red grouper, black seabass and a tarpon as well as a few unmentionables ... uh, like catfish, puffers, jacks, ladyfish and quality lizardfish. Unmentionables? Well, I mention them because they pull hard, and for kids, put smiles on faces. They don't care and aren't fish snobs. These species were all caught in depths ranging from 8 to 14 feet. One tarpon was jumped on the MirrOlure Lil' John and broke off on the light trout rig used.
Capt. Ray Markham
Flat Back II