Just got back form a 7 day trip to Islamorada. This is a trip we do every year around this time. I take my Dad and a couple of other guys I grew up fishing with and we pretty much 100% focus on live baiting tarpon with the goal being putting as many tarpon in the air as possible. Everybody in the group has caught tons of them over the years so we try not to fight them all the way to exhaustion for a picture...if they jump off or break the leader, no problem we will go hook another one. Usually as soon as we can get our hands on the leader we go ahead and pop the hook out and the tarpon swims off in great shape.
We got one of these crazy cold fronts we keep having about mid week and it put off the bite for a couple of days but we still managed to jump 31 and get our hands on the leader on 11. Not bad for a week of strange weather. Most of our bites were in the late afternoons, but we did fish a couple of nights starting at 2AM with mixed results. In the day time the fish bit better when the wind was up but at night it was much better the one night it was glass smooth.
The one smooth night we fished you could hear tarpon busting all over the bay...very cool. It definitely keeps everyone anticipating a bite. That night along with drifting crabs, we experimented with the soft plastic baits by Hogy, throwing a black 10" soft plastic on a 5/0 circle hook. We had one explode on it right at the boat resulting in a sporty fight on the lighter spinning rod we were using. We had one more blow up on it and miss in just a short time of using it. I will definitely be adding this to the arsenal. Next time though I may try a big black fly.
For live baits both mullet and crabs drew strikes throughout the week but the majority of our time was spent drifting crabs as detailed in my previous article.
Towards the weekend, the crowds seemed to really stack up in the more popular channels around Islamorada which did slow the bite. I think next year, I may talk to Blue Moon Expeditions about doing a trip to some of the less pressured parts of the Lower Keys that they fish and trying to put some of the same live bait tactics to work on less pressured fish.
During the same time we were Islamorada, Captain Shafter Johnston took a group up to the Shark River in Everglades National Park. They found lots of nice snook along the coast and tarpon up in remote rivers with few other boaters around. He said the day they left Flamingo there was only one vehicle at the launch ramp. I love summer in the glades. I'm hoping to make another trip down to the glades chasing snook the week of July 4th.
By Chip Willimon
Bio: Chip currently lives in North Carolina but makes 4 separate week long self guided trips a year to the Everglades Park or Keys. He primarily targets Tarpon and Snook from his 18 foot Egret flats boat, "Miss Katie". His favorite months to fish the area is from Mid March to Mid October. Since most of his friends that accompany him on his adventures are generally not hardcore fishermen he tends to focus on light tackle and live bait fishing, only pulling the fly rod out on occasion.