One of the most sought after fish in our Florida Keys waters is the ‘Silver King’… the tarpon. Although it looks like a prehistoric beast, this bucket mouth oversized pilchard is a fish worth a lot of dough. Every single one we fish to, that follows the fly or leaps through the air means something to someone. I’ve watched guys come back year after year just to get the fly in front of one of these beasts and I must admit, to see their pectoral fins flair out right before they charge the fly is what makes it all worth while.
This tarpon run has started out kind of on the slow side. For once May was not a total wash – meaning rain and wind and days that are unfishable. May was pretty darn nice, but for a while there I had to wonder where the heck the tarpon were and when were they going to show themselves.
I’ve fished here professionally since 2002 and even in my time I’ve seen a lot of changes in our fishery. It’s a good thing we have great people at Bonefish Tarpon Trust and our own Lower Keys Guides Association that assist in preserving our fishery. It’s a great one and so many people visit us this time of year just for the tug of a tarpon on fly.
The past couple of weeks have changed my outlook on the tarpon bite. It’s made a complete turn-around lately and we’ve gone through one Palolo worm hatch and are about to be on the cusp of another. The Palolo worm is a red-ish earthworm looking creature that hatches from the coral rock, pops to the surface of the water and makes a b-line for the reef. For some reason these worms are a delicacy for tarpon and other aquatic fish and birds too!
To fish the worm hatch you’ve gotta have some accuracy throwing the fly and have the strip down in order to mimic the worm. I’ve seen it where there are so many worms it’s very difficult to get a bite. Other times there are just enough worms that you can get a bite and all you want to do is break him off just to fish to the next fish. It’s sometimes crazy and chaotic and before you know it the sun has set and it’s all over.
We do fish the worm during the day on occasion when the tarpon are just not wanting to eat anything else. Most locations where you will find the worm hatch going on are on the oceanside flats where there is hard bottom. Not to say it doesn’t happen in the backcountry, but you have to know where to go and how to get back once it gets dark.
June is shaping up to be a good month. We’ve just had some rough weather days that were part of a tropical system but it looks like at least the winds will die off and we will be able to see those early morning rolling fish we all dream about.