Although our recent unusually high temperatures have created challenges to normal fishing patterns, they have also provided some exciting and unexpected opportunities as I found out on my most recent trip.
I was targeting redfish and my go-to bait, pilchards and shad, proved plentiful but too small to be useful. While at the boat ramp, I spied a school of mullet and tossed my net just to see what I’d pull up. Scored a few good-sized enough to use for cut bait, but also landed a decent quantity of finger mullets, so decided to change things up a little and give these guys a try.
I began by fishing the docks in the Jungle Prada area of Boca Ciega Bay, dead-sticking using cut mullet on a jig head. It took a while and I did land a couple nice reds, but the action was short-lived. While biding my time, I looked across the bay toward the channel and SURPRISE! caught the silver flash of tarpon. I wasn’t really rigged for tarpon but, not having much success at the docks, I motored out to the edge of the channel to try my luck.
I switched out the jig heads for a regular hook and baited it with finger-mullet. Within just a minute or two it was fish-on! Tarpon are a great sport fish and a real thrill to catch especially when they become airborne. The ones I was catching ranged in size from 2-5 feet and put up a heart-pounding fight before flying out of the water and throwing the hook, robbing me of my photo-op. Still it made for a couple hours of some very exciting fishing. Next time I come prepared!
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