Beach Tarpon and Snook
by Captain Michael Manis
Right now, it’s hard not to think tarpon. For many, including myself, we wait all year for this window of opportunity. However, during early summer, this is by far not the only game in town. With good water temperature and plenty of bait, all our bays and sounds should fish well. Redfish, jack crevalle, spotted sea trout, sharks, and of course snook should be prowling the flats.
Off the flats, the beach is the place to be and after spending all winter in the backcountry it provides a nice change of pace. That change includes migrating tarpon and schooling snook. What is more, the snook can be fished from the beach. In fact, it’s probably the best shore fly fishing all year. They can be seen moving up and down just off the sand either in or just outside the trough where the waves break.
I like the beaches of Boca Grande and Sanibel. Both can be accessed without a boat. White and grey or silver bait fish patterns from size 2 to 1/0 rigged with a nine-foot leader on an eight-weight and floating line work well. I have fished from both the sand and wading and have found staying out of the water works best. It’s sight fishing and they definitely notice me when I’m in the water. It’s also a good idea to bring a stripping basket.
Most likely, since I’ll have a few more months to chase snook on the beaches, I’ll spend most of my time looking up and down the beaches hunting tarpon. Between Captiva and Stump Pass is a lot of ground to cover; however, in all likelihood I’ll find myself staked out in one or two places looking for groups or strings of tarpon moving north. In order to see the fish better, I like a shallow sandy bottom. One spot, the northwest edge of Gasparilla Pass can be good but it does see a lot of boat traffic. So, for more elbowroom I like the area between Johnson Shoals and Murdock Point south of Boca Grande Pass.
It’s a rather large area with sandy shoals both close in and a good distance off the beach and even though it’s a relatively shallow area, it’s still too deep to stake out with a Power Pole. Therefore, an anchor rigged with a buoy is preferable. If necessary, this allows you to untie the anchor upon hook up. No one minds if you get on the motor to chase a fish; however, you don’t want to be motoring around trying to get in front of the fish. In addition, when staking out be considerate and don’t set up in front of another boat, as you’ll want to move off to the side or even behind them. You’ll still get plenty of shots and you’ll find that everyone helps each other out spotting fish if you show a little etiquette.
These are big migrating fish so I break out the twelve-weight rod. I’ll throw a floating line unless the fish are staying low in the water column. In that case, I’ll switch to an intermediate sink tip. I like flies on the smaller side and in lighter colors. For example, the Puglisi Boca Grande 3/0 tarpon in day glow and yellow are two good patterns.
Until next month, good tides.
Captain Michael Manis
Punta Gorda Fly Charters