Boca Grande, Florida Fish Pictures

Main Page     More Pics


                       
                 Donny B with a Permit! Okay a baby Jack          Rob or Colin with a nice Snooky






                       
                            Little Poker Play and Beers                        "Is he pointing at a Tarpon or the Bar?"
                               between Tide Changes



                            
                     Nick catching Dinner, or was it bait?      Tandem Ladyfish on every other cast





                       

                              
                                          Lemon is in the air and in the water, Lemon Shark on the prowl


             
                       Rob and TDawg resting after                              My Saltwater Boxes
                          catching a few Ladyfish                         You can never have too many flies





                 
                                        Chasing Silvers at night is pretty hard to beat
                               








                         
                               Rob out fishing while the                                          Exactly!!
                                    boys were napping



 
                                             
                                        
                                                    Nick busy filming while we were above 
                                                                 sight fishing for Tarpon


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Night Fishing for Tarpon


WALT JENNINGS

Intro | Night | Tackle | Leaders | Casting | Timing | Guides


FACT:
Tarpon feed most heavily during the night--especially during heavy tides that concentrate their food.

FACT:Most tarpon anglers fish during the day when they can see the fish.

Tarpon (and many other game fish) are mostly nocturnal, and prefer to feed during the night. When heavy outgoing tides pull water from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean, Florida Keys tarpon gather at the "passes" (the waterways between the land masses known as "Keys") to ambush crabs, shrimp, and baitfish swept away by the current. If you can find these concentrated packs of tarpon--gorging themselves by moonlight--you can hook more big 'poons in one night than many anglers do in a week on the flats.


Night fishing is one of the most effective ways to hook tarpon of a fly rod. Captain Bruce Chard (above left) specializes in this type of fishing.

I saw this for myself in May of 1999 when I followed two daytime tarpon anglers, and then the following three nights, two different anglers who were night fishing in the same area--one of the more famous passes in the Keys.

Both sets of anglers were using similar lines, flies, and both had good guides, but there was one very big difference: The daytime anglers were sight casting to tarpon, and the nighttime anglers were blind casting to fish they could only hear sloshing around in the darkness.

The daytime anglers had an average of 3-4 tarpon eat their fly each day they fished, while the night owls had 18 hookups the first night, 12 the second night, and 10 the third night for an average of 13 fish per night. The night anglers fished only 5-6 hours at a time, and spent the hot part of the day napping in an air conditioned room! I'm no rocket scientist, but I do fish a lot, and can assure anyone that I'll take a night of 13 tarpon bites anytime over a day of 3-4 bites.

As for the quality of the fishing, I didn't hear any complaints from the night anglers. In the early evening (when it was still light and the tide was just starting to go out), their Captain anchored near a gap in the bridge pilings, and the anglers used the current to swing a Tarpon Bunny on a floating line across the opening. Tarpon were always nearby. While the light was low, and you couldn't see through the water, you could often see schools of fish rolling and porpoising their way right toward the anchored boat and the evening's feeding grounds.

When tarpon hit the fly, there was nothing subtle about it. They chased and pounced the fly, and exploded into the air just as daytime flats tarpon do when hooked.

After dark, the Captain motored up into the Gulf side of the pass, and drifted silently back toward the bridge. His anglers cast 90-degrees to the boat, trying to measure their casts to the sounds of rolling, breaking tarpon. When fleeing ballyhoo came showering into the boat, they knew a short cast was in order.

At the end of each night, whole fly lines were missing (a figure-eight around a barnacle-encrusted bridge piling can do that), knuckles were bleeding, and everyone was a little weak in the knees. The raw power of a 130-pound tarpon is more than awesome in the dead of night. It's almost frightening.

So why doesn't everyone fish at night, and what's the secret of catching tarpon at night? For starters, operating a boat safely at night takes a great deal of experience. There is always a lot of shallow water near, and on the way to and from your destination--and you have to navigate this terrain without using landmarks. The currrent is very strong (the stronger the tide, the better the fishing) and the bridges that cross every pass have pilings that can be dangerous obstacles.

For these reasons, it's impossible (or just suicidal) to go out on your own, and there are very few fly-fishing guides who specialize in this kind of fishing. Captain Bruce Chard (Night Stalker Fishing Charters 888-FLY-FISH) is the only one I know of. The console of his flats skiff reads "Fear No Pilings" and he can make serpentine turns around bridge pilings in heavy current almost as well as the tarpon can.

Tides are always important in saltwater fishing and this is especially important in this type of tarpon fishing. In the Florida Keys, the best time to find tarpon feeding at the passes is during a high outgoing tide.

The outgoing tide carries crabs, fin fish, and shrimp off of the flats and through the passes. The tarpon are accustomed to this, and their great night vision helps them take advantage of the situation.

If the tide is high just after sundown, you'll have an outgoing tide for the next 5-6 hours, and that's the best and most convienient time to fish. If you can get a full moon, that is also to your advantage because shrimp and small crabs move around more, floating off of the grass flats with the outgoing tide. Tarpon will also use the light of the moon to backlight their prey near the surface, and often feed more intensely.




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