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tarpon tactics key west

Report Date: June 29, 2008

June ending up being a great month for tarpon fishing in Key West. The ocean side fishing was fantastic. Plenty of fish to be hooked. I say hooked, because in all actuality, you land 20% of the tarpon you hook. The number on reason for loosing tarpon is angler error. No, not everyone is a poor fisherman; however, what is required to catch a tarpon on conventional and or fly tackle goes well beyond traditional fish.
The genetic structure of a tarpon mouth is solid bone covered in flesh. These fish eat everything from shrimp, crabs, to squid and bait fish. There mouth is not extensively sensitive to getting stuck by foreign object, so the likely of the eating the fly or the bait and then dropping it before you feel them is eminent. They just never feel the hook so they don’t always react, a turn and run directly away, thus causing a proper tight line to hook to fish scenario. This is the first problem.
The second problem when hooking or fighting tarpon. The Jump……..These fish go bonkers once they get stuck with a hook. Now, keep in mind as I stated before their mouth is solid, hard, bone. The tarpon jump, you smile in awe, he shakes his head in the air, and the hook sling shots itself out due to all the tension on the line, and now your fish is gone. So bow to the king! Yes, many have heard this term, however, few understand what this means and why we do it. Line tension. To create slack line or take away the pressure from the line and the fish. By pointing the rod at the tarpon, you now have created slightly less pressure on the point of impact or the tension point which is where the fish is hooked. When the fish goes airborne, there should be sufficient slack in the line so when he shakes his head away from you and then swing it back toward you the pressure on the line and hook point will be equal the whole time. Thus not giving the hook the chance to drop out or sling from the mouth. Keep in mind there are many time when I have pulled a hook from a tarpons mouth and the barb of the hook was never fully impaled.
The third problem is line chaffing. The reason for using hard mono or fluorocarbon leader up to 80lb is for abrasion resistance. The tarpon do not have big teeth; however, they have strong jaws and teeth that are like 40grit sand paper. Their jaws strength alone can 40lb leader. So add this to the length and or duration of the tarpon fight and you have another potential fish loosing scenario. There is little you can do about the wearing of the leader. Circle hook have helped this cause a great deal. The design of the hook, searches for the corner of the mouth, therefore the eye of the hook will stay outside the fish’s mouth, leaving less chance of line chaffing. Fish the fish hard, and strong from the beginning. The longer that fish is on the line, the more likely of the leader chaffing through.
Don’t get to upset if you lose a tarpon. If you bowed to the fish, did not wrapped the line around the rod tip, or in some way pulled to hard and broke him/her off. Don’t get to upset. Even if you do all things correct, you still may only land one out of every five you hook.

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Capt. Lenny Leonard
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