Anna Maria anglers celebrate returning silver kings
As the temperature rises and we move into the typical summertime fishing pattern, tarpon become the main focus of anglers on the waters surrounding Anna Maria Island. With this being said, it is a good time to learn more about one of Florida’s premier game fish.
Tarpon, sabalo or silver king — whatever you choose to call them — have been swimming the world’s oceans since prehistoric times. They are considered one of Florida’s top game fish due to their strength, stamina and incredible fighting ability.
There are two varieties of tarpon. Megalops atlanticus, the species caught in our waters, and Megalops cyprinoides, an Indo-Pacific species. Megalops atlanticus can be found throughout the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean and is known to inhabit waters of the Western Atlantic coast, ranging from Virginia to Brazil. On the eastern side of the Atlantic, these fish also are caught around the middle to the southern tip of Africa.
Megalops cyprinoides is found throughout the waters of Southeast Asia, Japan and Australia and along the eastern African coast.
Neither is worthy of the dinner table, but oh what a catch.
Tarpon inhabit fresh and saltwater, particularly around the mouths of rivers and marshes. They utilize their swim bladder to rise to the surface and take gulps of air — giving them the ability to survive in hypoxic water — water with relatively low oxygen content.
This is particularly beneficial in the larval stage — picture a 1-inch transparent ribbon-like body with small fang-like teeth — as they inhabit salt marches, tidal pools, creeks and rivers and feed on zooplankton. The water quality is not tolerable for most other fish, which in turn aids in the survival of juvenile tarpon.
As these fish grow toward adulthood, they move to the Gulf of Mexico and other waters in search of prey, feeding both day and night. Also, because their teeth are minute, they usually swallow their prey whole.
Tarpon can grow to a length of 5-8 feet. Most have a greenish to bluish back, with bright silver sides made up of large, almost vertical scales. Often, when these fish breech the surface to take air, you see a bright silver flash as the scales reflect the sun. The average weight of a full-grown tarpon is 100-120 pounds, although fish up to 280 pounds have been reported.
I’m seeing tarpon hookups with battles lasting as long as 90 minutes. As clients fight their tarpon, a rodeo ensues among the numerous boats in the surrounding area hooking up at the same time. The excitement rises as lines crisscross and the 100-pounder jumps within feet of the boat.
Tarpon fishing is something every angler should experience.
Aside from the tarpon bite, inshore fishing is producing good numbers of spotted seatrout. The morning incoming tides are a good time to start targeting bigger trout on the shallow flats that flow into channels and deeper potholes. A live pinfish placed under a popping cork is a good method to target the bigger fish.
Redfish are patrolling the shallow flats during the incoming tides. Try throwing a live shiner and wait for the explosion of a redfish as it blasts your bait.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is targeting tarpon in the passes and on the beach. Gross likes to use a 5/0 or 6/0 circle hook tied to 60-pound fluorocarbon leader attached to 50-pound braided line. Gross’s preferred baits are crab and threadfin herring. Tarpon up in the 80- to 100-pound class have been the norm for hookups by Gross’ clients.
Gross also has been targeting spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook. This has been productive for Gross, who also is hunting the flats of Sarasota Bay with live white bait for redfish.
Capt. Warren Girle also is targeting silver kings off the beaches of Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key. Both live shiners and crabs are putting them on the hook. Girle was putting his clients on fish ranging 80-100 pounds this past week.
Between tarpon rodeos, he’s on backwater trips in Sarasota Bay, catching spotted seatrout and redfish. For the trout, Girle is fishing potholes on deeper grass flats using shiners. Girle reports good numbers of trout throughout the bay, while reds are scattered.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier in Anna Maria says anglers using speck rigs have been hooking into Spanish mackerel, while those with live bait — shrimp fished on the bottom under the pier deck — are reporting catches of mangrove snapper and flounder.
Jonny Keyes at Island Discount Tackle says the spotted seatrout bite on the deeper flats of the surrounding waters of Anna Maria Island is the best bite going this week. Limits of trout are being reported daily by the anglers who frequent the tackle shop.
Live bait shrimp and shiners, is working well, but you can use artificials with good results, Keyes says. Redfish are scattered throughout the flats, but keeper fish are coming from the shallow grass.
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