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Texas Tarpon

Late spring through fall the Texas coast becomes one of the best tarpon fisheries an angler can dream of. The migration begins as these fish work their way towards the Yucatan Peninsula before the Gulf's temperatures drop for winter. Depending where you fish on the Texas coast you will begin to see a trickle in May and the full-blown migration from August – October. Unfortunately, weather plays a big factor in being able to get out into the Gulf. When the winds lay down and the seas flatten guides and anglers will be out in search of rolling fish, bait balls, or large schools moving through their waters.

Over the years I feel that schools are offshore but are brought in closer to the surf due to jetties and inlets. The outflow of water and bait attract these fish and will stage before continuing on. Many times the smaller fish in the 30-60 lbs are left behind as they can not keep up with the larger females. These smaller fish become some what of a resident fish. We will see these fish rolling around the jetties and in the surf.


The best opportunity to catch a tarpon on the Texas coast is from a boat or jetty. Jetty fishing is where most of us start off. Walking out in the early morning or late afternoons in search of rolling fish. For this I use at least a 1oz HeadlockZ HD with either a StreakZ XL or StreakZ 5in curly tail. A lot of times I get the bite on the drop with the curly tail. Usually these fish are circling the tips of the jetties in search of bait being swept out with the tide. Watch for a roll and then cast out in front of the direction the fishing is moving. If the fish are not rolling try casting out and reeling back with a slow pace.

When fishing from a boat in the surf it imperative to use a trolling motor. This not only allows you to get close to fish it also keep from pushing fish out of the area. A big complaint for Texas tarpon fisherman is other boaters running up and down the edge of the beach looking for tarpon. This will push fish out deep. The rule of thumb is to run at least 500 yards off the beach. Once you come to an area you need to use your trolling motor to move in closer. If fish are travelling south, and you run them over then most of the boats south of you have just had their day ruined.

Once you move in quietly look for where the fish are rolling. Usually on a high tide the schools are pushed closer to the beach and vice versa. Once you are on their line hold your position and wait for schools or singles to roll. When fishing in the surf I use StreakZ XL in pearl, smokey shad, and bubble gum. You will need to gauge the speed of the fish and lead it accordingly. Typically, if the fish are moving 10 feet is a good enough lead. Dropping the lure on top will spook them. I also like to use HeroZ in pearl when the water is clean or sun is full. Black in the early mornings or if the water is murky. I like to throw these with 10/0 EWG weightless hooks. Lead the fish and slowly work back with subtle twitches. The weightless hooks will help keep from being thrown when a fish starts to thrash. Leader is important for tarpon as well. I typically use 50-60 lbs mono. If the jetty water is clear then bring that down to 40lbs.

Remember to take care of these majestic creatures by not taking them out of the water. Bring a tarpon alongside the boat for a quick pic before reviving the fish. Try to match your equipment to the size of the fish. Fighting a large poon for over an hour will mostly result in the death of that fish. Pull and fight hard if you truly want to land it. Respect the fish, and your fellow fisherman.

Capt Tim O'Brien



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