Tarpon fishing in Tampa / St. Petersburg / Sarasota is as good, if not better than, any place else in Florida. Tampa Bay is located between Port Charlotte (Boca Grand) and Homosassa, both famous for their Tarpon fishing on Florida’s west coast. Tampa Bay is the largest open water estuary in Florida and is often over-looked by serous fly fisherman, which is a big mistake. This area offers 8 major passes, allowing Tarpon to enter and exit the Bay waters where they cross shallow, clear-water sand flats, allowing for fantastic sight fishing. Due to the large amount of Tarpon, most of the bait fisherman target the Sunshine Skyway bridge or the passes on an out-going tide, largely leaving the beaches and the shallow water fish to the sight fisherman. While the numbers of fish in Homosassa has slowed down and the Florida Keys Tarpon are getting a lot of pressure, the Tampa Bay area is thriving. The amount of Tarpon you will see and the number of quality shots you will get will astonish you. These fish average between 60 and 150 lbs. Two years ago during a tournament in Tampa Bay, the Sun Coast Tarpon Round-Up, two of the biggest tarpon in Florida were caught on bait. These fish weighed 222lbs and 232lbs. Unfortunately they were killed.
When it starts
As early as the middle of February the Bay waters climb to the low 70’s and the Tarpon start to show up on the grass flats inside the Bay. There is some debate if these fish are early migratory or are resident fish, but nevertheless they are big, they lay up and they eat flies very well. This is a special time of year for me. I truly have a passion for laid-up Tarpon and have worked very hard at finding and developing this fishery. With the help from a small group of dedicated fly fishing guides Tampa Bay is on the map as a destination for spring time laid-up Tarpon.
When does The Tampa Tarpon migration start?
As the full moon in April approaches we start to see migrating Tarpon. By the third week in May we are going strong and by the first of June we are in full swing. As I mentioned before the number of fish is crazy. We have singles and small pods, huge schools, daisy chaining fish, laid-up fish all in shallow water over sand. It doesn’t get any better. Somewhere around the middle of July the big schools start to thin out and we start to see singles and small pods. This is post spawn fishing and this is a great time to catch really big fish. These are big single fish that eat well. During the migration, you see large females surrounded by a bunch of 60 and 80lbs males which makes getting the fly to the female more difficult. After the spawn the big fish are singles or groups of two to five.
This fishing goes strong sometimes straight through the end of September or the middle of October. Other years it slows down in the middle of August until the middle of September and then picks up another couple of weeks as the water temps start to cool down on the beach.
Fall laid up Tarpon fishing
As the water temp starts to cools at the end of September. We get more shots at laid up fish in the bay. The Tampa Bay Tarpon lay up all summer long but during the heat of the summer our fish move to deeper water and lay near the bottom, making it difficult to sight fish with the fly (but good plug fishing). As the water temperature cools, these fish move back into the shallow water and lay near the surface. This fishing can stay strong depending on weather well into November.
Catching Tarpon – Fly Fishing
- The Tampa Bay area offers baby Tarpon to real Giants.
- I spend most of my time targeting the large fish and recommend 10-12 weight fly rods and reels with good drag system that have line capacity of at least 250 yards of backing.
- We use floating, floating with clear sink tips and clear intermediate lines and on some occasions (but rare) sinking lines.
- I rig all my outfits IFGA legal with tippets size at 20 and 16 lbs
- If you are interested in pursuing a fly rod record on lighter tippets please contact me to discuss special leaders and recommendations on size of rods and reels.
- For smaller Tarpon I recommend 8 and 9 weight rods and Intimidate lines.
- I welcome everyone to use their own outfits (you probably spent enough money) but I have a selections of G Loomis, Sage, and Biscayne rods to accommodate clients that cast better with medium to fast rods.
Multiple day discounts available
It takes more than great fishing to make a great fishing vacation. Everything from ground transportation from airport, to hotels, meals and even night time entertainment are important to compliment the great fishing. The Tampa Bay area has something for everyone and every budget. When you inquire about the dates you want to fish, let’s take a minute and discuss your other arrangements. I will be happy to make recommendations and point you in the right direction. Complete packages can be customized to make the whole trip easy.