Tarpon and Snook Fishing in
Belize, Mexico, and Costa Rica

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TOP BLOG POSTS FOR GETTING TARPON TO THE BOAT FOR PHOTOS

FLYFISHING THE YUCATAN PENINSULA - PART 1

BATTLING FISH FEVER - SIGHT FISHING FOR TARPON

CASTING IN THE WIND

POLARIZED LENSES - SEEING THE FISH

TARPON FISHING - TIPS AND TECHNIQUES
Tarpon fishing is one of my passions. And the smaller tarpon from six to thirty pounds are, in my opinion, way more fun than the bigger ones. Don't get me wrong, catching a 100 lb. fish is great sport and makes a great photo, but often it takes so long to get a fish of this size to the boat that both me and the fish are spent when the photo op happens. I don't like going through an entire bottle of ibuprofen on a fishing trip, so I typically head for the fisheries where the smaller fish are the norm.

In a typical day of tarpon fishing, an angler will see three to five times as many fish as he or she will cast to. You'll cast to three to five times as many tarpon as you will hook and "jump". And you'll jump three to five times as many tarpon as you'll get to the boat for a photo. One of the main difficulties in getting a tarpon to the boat is the hardness of the inside of the tarpon's mouth. You need extremely sharp, extremely strong hooks that won't bend or break. And you need to know how to properly "bow". Bowing is essentially just that - extend your rod toward the fish and bend at the waist in a genuflect that rivals that of the peasants toward the king! And this means EVERY TIME A TARPON JUMPS YOU BOW! - SEE PHOTO BELOWTarpon almost always come UP to take a lure or fly. So fast sinking lines, while useful in some specific instances, are not my first choice. I like the ease of casting with a floating line and if I need to get my fly down a little, I'll just use a deep minnow or a fly with a litle weight on it. And since I'm usually fishing for the smaller tarpon, sometimes I'll just go down a few pounds in shock tippet strength to get the fly down to the appropriate depth. Costa Rica is the exception to this rule - especially at Silver King Lodge and Rio Parismina Lodge. Here you will fish in deeper water and a sinking flyline or a heavy sink tip or shooting head is very effective. Also you'll throw heavy jigs to get down to where the tarpon are.MOTION IN THE OCEAN
Keep your flly moving! Again it is a rarity when a completely still fly will entice a tarpon to bite, but it does happen occasionally. I try to always keep the fly coming toward me acting like a wounded or escaping baitfish or shrimp depending on the fly I am using.

SETTING THE HOOK ON A TARPON
Strip-strike, don't trout set. Often beginning tarpon anglers finally get a tarpon to follow and eat the fly only to lose the fish when they strike in an upward motion like you would use on a Bighorn brown trout. Don't do this. Keep the flyrod tip pointed at the oncoming fish and keep stripping the line toward you until you see the fish take the fly or feel it...then KEEP STRIPPING UNTIL YOU FEEL THE WEIGHT OF THE TARPON...then give it one more sharp tug to set the hook - ALL THE WHILE KEEPING THE ROD POINTED AT THE FISH. You are basically pulling the point of the hook into the hard bony mouth of the tarpon with your hand - not with the bend of the rod as you would be in trout fishing.
HANDLE TARPON WITH CARE
Tarpon are a valuable resource as a game fish. It is great sport to catch them on light tackle, but we need to be sensitive about the preservation of the species. Nets are handy but not necessary to get a tarpon for a photograph. We always practice catch-and-release and if you must use a net on smaller tarpon, use one with rubber mesh to minimize damage to these awesome fighters. The best way to photograph a bigger tarpon is to leave it in the water and lean over the boat, or if possible get in the water. For smaller fish, take them out only for a quick shot or two and get them back as soon as possible. Take time to gently pull the caught tarpon by the lower lip forward under water until he regains strength and is ready to swim away.

If you have any questions about tarpon fishing that you want answered, don't hesitate to use our FEEDBACK FORM to ask your question, or feel free to email me directly at info@rodreeladventures.com.

WHAT TARPON EAT
Tarpon are carnivores like most fish. But they are really less picky than many species. Anything that looks alive is a potential enticing treat for a tarpon. What surprises most anglers is that you don't need a really big fly or lure for such a big fish. For the baby tarpon and even the big boys I will rarely use a fly longer than three and a half inches and more often the flies I use are more like two to two and a half inches in length. Tarpon are opportunistic feeders so be creative with colors and styles. I have caught tarpon on steelhead flies only an inch and a half long. The important thing is the strong and sharp hook. Many hooks on these smaller flies and lures will not be strong enough and will bend out during the battle. Make sure your flies are tied on strong hooks!

TARPON FISHING TACKLE
Flyfishing for big tarpon requires tackle that is suited to these huge, strong fish. A twelve weight rod and a large arbor flyreel with a technologically advanced drag system with a line and a capacity of 200-250 yards of 30# dacron backing is essential. Although I use floating flylines almost exclusively, there are places where a deep water express flyline is a really good idea. I usually carry two extra spools - one with a full sinking line and one with a twenty foot sinking tip for getting down fast. I hardly ever use these, but I have them just in case.

SNOOK FISHINGSnook are found in most areas where you find tarpon. Costa Rica has some excellent snook waters and in Mexico where they haven't been netted by commercial fishermen or handlined in by natives. Snook are tasty fish, but they grow slowly and their numbers have dwindled where strict conservation is not enforced. The techniques for catching snook are very similar to those needed for catching tarpon. Always keep your fly moving, strip-strike, use a heavy mono or wire leader as the sides of the snook's mouth are razor sharp.One difference between tarpon fishing and snook fishing is the speed with which you retrieve your fly or lure. Snook like to hide under submerged logs, stumps, and mangroves and are excellent predators. So they often strike with greater speed in an ambush type move. Sometimes they will hit a fly as soon as it lands at the edge of a mangrove. Other times I'll let the fly sink a few feet...almost to the sandy bottom, then retrieve in a fast and aggressive manner. Tarpon like it a bit slower and steady. But like in all fishing, if one technique is not working, try something else...especially when you get a refusal from a fish you can see.

And if you are in a place where keeping a snook is legal, keep a smaller fish for the table and let the big fish live to spawn and keep this valuable resource in good shape for future generations.

SNOOK FISHING TACKLE
An eight weight flyrod with a floating line and 150-200 yards of backing is the norm for snook fishing. It is pretty rare to hook a snook big enough to take you to your backing, but when the big dog eats, it's best to be ready. Most newer fly reels made to fit this sized rod will have plenty of backing capacity. I use 30# braided dacron backing. The 20# will give you more capacity, but when it slices through your skin, you'll wish you stayed with less backing at 30#.

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