Shrimp, mullet, crabs and pinfish are all good options for live bait Key West tarpon fishing. The technique involves anchoring the boat and freeing a line of bait into places where you know the fish are. Weight the bait to get it as deep as possible.
How heavy the weight should be depends a lot on the rate of the tidal current. If it’s too heavy, the hook is at risk of pulling out. To overcome this, secure the line and weight with light copper wire. It’ll drop off more easily and eliminate hazards when reeling the fish in.
Tarpon are strong and have rough, hard mouths, abrasive scales and sharp gill plates. The sizes of hooks depend on brand and size of the bait. Usually, a 6/0-11/0 circle hook does the job.
Rig the live bait so that it looks as natural as possible. For instance, hook a crab in the corner of the shell. Hook pinfish and mullet through the mouth, vertically or horizontally.
Here’s a good tip for shrimp – head or tail hook it to a hook-up jig to prevent the current from spinning it. In the old days and even now, guides tend to only take a dozen or so mullet when they fish for tarp because crab and pinfish work well.
Give yourself lots of options because tarps are hard to catch. Sometimes, they only go for small pinfish, and sometimes they only go for crabs. As mentioned, success depends largely on tidal current speed. If it’s fast, mullet is preferable because spinning will be at a minimum.
An experienced key west tarpon fishing guide uses various types and sizes of bait. You can now see that there are many variables to consider when going for tarp. However, one thing to always ensure is that you keep one bait on the bottom with one or two others free-lined at various depths.
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