Man Fishing For Tarpon

Tarpon Fishing

Seeing Tarpon roll is always exciting, but running full speed to the school and throwing lures isn’t your best option to hook up on one of these incredible fish. Spend some time stalking these fish to understand how and why they feed a certain way.

Questions to think about while observing these tarpon:

  • When you see tarpon feeding, are they over a sandbar or oyster bed where bait is trapped in shallow water? 
  • Are they along the outside of a creek bend where the current is fastest and they can be the dominant swimmers, attacking passing bait while waiting in an eddy?
  • Are they crashing through the middle of a school of menhaden pushed up against a ledge?
  • Is the current causing a turbulent flow where bait might get disoriented? 
  • Are they swimming in an eddy caused by jetties while schools of bait blow overhead in the tide?
  • Are they gulping air to feed on the bottom, or are they coming completely out of the water crashing bait on the surface?

Once you start building a hypothesis as to why the fish are focusing on a certain spot, you can begin to understand how to target them. This isn’t to say soaking a piece of dead bait sitting at the bottom of a hole isn’t a good place to start fishing for them, but the sooner you start to understand why they feed in a certain place, the better fisherman you’ll become.

Tarpon Breaching Water

Tarpon Fishing Tips

  1. Know the seafloor you’re fishing. Where are the sandbars and deep cuts? Are there any rips in the area? Tarpon are waiting for an opportunity where they can easily feed without expending too much energy. Use the “Cost- Benefit Analysis." Where could you easily ambush prey, while using the least amount of energy possible? 
  2. Don't bank on yesterday's spot working today, in Georgetown. Be sure to keep track of when, where, and which specific tide you see schools of Tarpon swimming in, especially if you see them feeding. A large school of menhaden getting sucked into North Inlet at the beginning of an incoming tide might find its way into Winyah Bay, taking a few of the Tarpon in North Inlet with it. 
  3. Follow the birds. Big birds are looking to feed on bigger bait, usually followed by bigger fish. If you find bait moving with the tide and have a general idea of what the seafloor/current is doing in that area, you have a good chance of hooking up. Putting out live or dead bait on a sandbar, or free lining live bait in an eddy are good options. Throwing artificial lures or running a fly through those same areas can also work.




Live Bait

In the spring, summer, and fall Georgetown’s estuaries hold plenty of menhaden and mullet for large fish to feed on. While both baits are great for targeting Tarpon, getting the correct size bait with the correct size hook could be the difference between jumping a Georgetown Tarpon and catching one. For a 6-7" mullet I like to fish with a 7/0 hook. You can increase or decrease the hook size as the bait size changes. Many Tarpon have been caught on large mullet (10” or larger), but Tarpon can also strike a bait that size without even getting the hook in their mouth.

Artificial Bait

Georgetown’s five rivers can kick up silt. When fishing for Tarpon with lures, I like to use ones that send out some vibration. Paddle tail soft plastics that send out vibration or suspending twitchbaits and topwater poppers with a good rattle, are two great options. If the water is a little clearer or you are in a position where you can easily place a lure in front of a Tarpon spoons, jerkbaits, and bucktails are great options, too. In clearer conditions, EP Baitfish, the Cockroach, or the tried and true Lefty’s Deceiver are great lures to try.