Winter in the seaway. Cold nights, westerly winds, flat calm seas, clear water and falling water temperatures. With the daytime surface feeding frenzies of autumn behind us all of these factors add up to some tough fishing during the day. With the seaway and broadwater now fully into the grip of winter lets look at the options we have for fishing.
Surface feeding during the day is very unpredictable during winter, Queenfish and Tailor are the most likely with Tailor feeding more aggressively during strong winds and rain. Queenfish are less fussy and will feed during the run in and run out tides. GT's and Kingfish may show occasionally during the day but are more likely to feed on surface after 3pm on a run in tide or during the dawn and dusk periods. Australian Salmon may or may not show up this year but they usually feed on surface during the first half of the run in tides as well. They are less fussy about low light periods and will feed on surface as long as the tide is right. Look for them around the sandbars and weedbeds where they can push the bait into shallow areas. The Horseshoe flats and the weedbeds just north of there is a classic Salmon ambush zone as is the area around the southern half of Wavebreak.
The dawn period usually yields a few Tailor, small Bigeyes and GT's around the ends and top 1/4 of the walls as can periods of strong winds and rain, just work the edges of the walls and in close to the rocks on the north wall flats with minnows first then with 20 gram twisties. Keep an eye on the sounder during this time and you may find schools of GT's, Bigeyes and Tailor sitting 50-100m out off the front of the wall and a plastic like the pearl slider on a 3/8th oz head or Squidgy Slick rig 80mm slow rolled through the school can get a fish or two. Also keep an eye on The Line out from the north and south wall and you may find schools of fish sitting on the bottom particularly on a run out tide, you can drop a heavy metal like a 30 gram twistie or 40 gram Raider down to them and slowly wound to the top might get strikes.
Using finesse plastics at the ends of the walls during run out tides is also an effective technique during the day during winter, you usually don't catch much but it is usually quality, species like Kingfish, Mackerel, Tailor and all the Trevally species are all possible. My preferred plastics are SF Whiteys, Fish Arrow Flash J and Casper Clear Powerbaits all rigged on no more than 1/8th oz heads. Simply allow for the drift and cast up so the plastic drifts gently to the bottom over your chosen spot. The Graveyard off the north wall and the South Wall Hole are both good places for this technique. You can also use it at the Elbow Hole, Canyon and the Deep Hole at the Cross Channels if fish are sitting on the bottom.
The usual heavy weighted plastics such as the Squidgy Flickbait 110 or 7" Gulp Jerkshad on 1-1.5oz heads will still catch small jewies around the tide changes in the Deep Hole, Pipeline and Tabletop off the north wall, if you are lucky you may get onto some decent size ones as well as the odd tailor, cod and GT.
Livebaiting works well particularly during the first of the run in tides in winter as the water is dirtier with larger Greenback Tailor, plenty of small to medium size jewies with the odd larger one, Giant Trevally from about 55cm up, different species of Cod and some other odd catches thrown in. Sharks can still be a problem and if you feel like chasing something big, a livebait or big flesh bait around 40cm will have you hooked up to one of these toothy critters in no time. Just make sure you fish the baits with enough lead to keep it near the bottom and away from strong tidal flows during the run in's or fish for them during the run out tides. For livies, try to get some pike around bridges and jetties using small minnows or plastics or berley up some garfish around the weedbeds with breadcrumbs or chicken pellets soaked in tuna oil, then catch them with small pieces of prawn or squid on #12 hooks. You can also go out to the bait reefs and try to get some yellowtail as well.
Luderick are a species not often chased in the seaway but there are plenty of them in there, during winter schools of 100's of fish can be found around the end of the north wall and north wavebreak wall but most rock walls hold a few. These fish can be caught on lures occasionally but are best fished with some cabbage weed under a float. Simply rig up a #8 size hook 1.5-2m underneath a float on a light leader(8lb or less) and cast it about 2 metres out from the rocks. Best times to fish for these is at the bottom half of the tides when the water is dirtier, run in or run out doesn't matter. Cabbage weed can be found on the rocks of the seaway at low tide, use caution when you are collecting it.
Night Time Options
Night time is when the Seaway and Broadwater can fish at its best during winter. Around the walls at night Tarpon are the primary target for dedicated sportfishers and all that is needed is a white or silver plastic on a 3/8th or 1/2oz head and a will to cast at the edges of the rocks until you find them which can take a while. Bigeyes, Hairtail and Jewies are also captured this way but tend to be small. For some reason tailor seem to be rare, I can only think of a couple of tailor I have caught this way at night despite the many hours spent fishing it.
Mulloway can be caught during the night using the same methods and in the same areas you fish during the day but at night is usually when the larger fish are caught. Larger soft plastics and livebaits fished around the start up and slow down of the tides both work with livebaits having the edge.
Look for schools of GT's sitting on the sandy bottom 50-100m out in front of the north wall on the runout tides at night, they are usually spread out over a fairly wide area not clustered up in one school like they do during the day. If you find this then sink plastics like the zman 2.5" curl tails or Squidgy slick rigs to the bottom and slowly work the plastic through the sitting fish. Cast, sink, wind for 2 seconds, stop for 5 seconds, wind for 2 seconds etc, it has to be s.l.o.w.
The edges of the channels leading to the seaway and deep hole areas are worth a troll with a shallow and deeper running minnows such as the flash 25, XR10 and XRD10 just after sunset for fish such as Tailor and Hairtail, good areas for this are the seaworld hole, Deep hole at the cross channels, the North East Crab Dropoff, Between Ephraim and Sovereign Islands and in the slower moving areas of the southern and northern channels.
Around the lighted bridges and jetties in the broadwater at night can yield some good fishing as well. The start of the runout seems to be the preferred time for feeding and you will find Tailor, Flathead, Bigeyes, GT's and Jewies will feed in
A winter mangrove jack
these areas. If you are very lucky you might find some surface feeding jewies in the leadup to the full moon. The best way to approach bridges is with a layered approach similar to that used around the north wall. Start with a shallow running minnows such as flash 15, 25, vision 110 or XR10 to get the fish that are feeding close to the surface then go deeper with a XRD10 or Vision 111 then a plastic like the 3" gulp Jerk shad in chart/pearl, Pearl Slider on 1/4oz heads or blade/vib lure. Concentrate on the areas with the light/dark zones first then move out to other areas. You can often get some surprise catches this way such as Mangrove Jacks, Giant Herring, Tarpon or Cod. Have a look at Sovereign and Ephraim Island Bridges, the Sunrise(Gold Coast)Bridge on the Nerang river, around Marina Mirage and any other lighted areas you can find. Area's with good tidal flow closeby to eddies are excellent night ambush spots for predators. You can also troll around these areas with a deep diving minnow.
So there is a few options for you to consider, while none of that is likely to compare to what we have seen in the last few months it should keep you busy until we hit the spring changes in September/October(my favourite time of year)
As another week comes to a close with a big swell slamming the seaway lets have a look at what has happened in fishing this week and what might happen over the next few days.
Early in the week GT's were feeding in the northern channel just on dawn, this early morning feeding pattern continued on to Tuesday with the fish only getting as far the the Canyon due to the late tide then stopped feeding in the mornings as the tides got too late in the day. Just about any method worked on these fish, they don't seem to be fussy when they feed anymore, Poppers, slugs, stickbaits, trolling and plastics all got fish. Towards the end of the week the GT's showed again in front of the north wall in the morning on friday and just to the north along South Stradbroke on Thursday night. Keep an eye out for fish on the sounder in front of the north wall, and drop a slug or plastic down into the school if you see them. The GT's only seem to be feeding in low light periods at the moment(dawn, dusk and heavy overcast/rain) so keep your eyes open for them during that time regardless of the tide. The afternoon run in tides towards the end of the week should yield some good fishing on them, though with the bad weather forecast for monday/tuesday you might see them come up on those afternoons as well.
There have been some Tailor and Queenfish around in the northern and southern channels during the start of the run in tides, the Queenfish are quite large at nearly 50cm, just watch out for those spikes. Slugs like the gillies baitfish from 10-25 grams are working on these fish when you find them.
Jewies have been around on the start and end of the run in tides on plastics and livies, the 7" gulp jerk shads are working fine, the deep hole has held quite a few fish at times but many around the 73cm mark. Haven't heard of too many fish caught around the pipeline this week but there is probably a few there as well. Livebaits have been a bit difficult to find on the bait reefs this week with alot of work needed to get enough for a session. Look for other places to get livies, the broadwater is holding alot of garfish and squid at the moment both of which make ideal live or dead baits. You should also be able to get some pike if you look around the jetties and bridges. Herring are okay but the 23cm bream are in plague proportions and will make fishing herring difficult.
Big sharks are around in reasonable numbers, all you need for these fish is a big livebait of Tailor or Bigeye or a big flesh bait and drop it to the bottom on a wire trace in the slower moving areas and you should hookup fairly quickly. Sharks will find a big bait really quickly if they are in the area so keep moving if you don't hookup. The deep hole at the end of the north wall is a consistent provider of sharks. Remember that all sharks over 1.5m must be released.
I noticed a big tailor following my minnow out near the end of the north wall this morning as I was casting into the wash so with this big swell creating some excellent wash areas its worth chucking a minnow into the area around the end of the wall to see whats around. Also check out the north walls flats areas as well, twisties thrown into this area are picking up some bigeyes and GT's. Nothing huge but you never know.
Tarpon are still around the walls in small numbers at night, the bulk of the school was sighted north of Crab Island last Saturday, god knows where they are now. Just keep an eye out and cast into anything that looks like fish.
The waverider buoy off the Gold Coast is reading a 4 metre swell so be very careful if you are going out in the morning over the weekend, it was breaking nearly all the way across on the run out tide this morning. It is relatively safe in front of the north wall for experienced seaway fishos but don't take any chances. Everyone should be wearing a lifejacket if you are out in that.
Back on the water at 3pm, ready for an overnighter. Forecast was 20kts SW but it was quite mild with less than 10kts W when I arrived. Had a look around up as far as Sovereign but no fish feeding on surface, couldn't find any on the sounder either so I decided to head out to the bait grounds and pick up some livies for the evening tides. That took a while and by the time I finished it was nearly dark. Did a few drifts with live yellowtail around the north wall but the tidal flow was too strong so gave it away. Tried some edge fishing hoping for a tarpon or bigeye but nothing there or around the pipe. Took a break until the top of the tide at around 10pm.
Around 10pm just as the tide began to slow I deployed a yellowtail again and it was soon eaten by a jewie exactly 73cm long, pulled 2 more the same size in consecutive drifts. That was it for there, tried a few other spots but nothing. Once the tide began to run out I switched to edge fishing again with a CCM grass minnow on a 3/8oz head and found some Tarpon on the south wall, landed 2 (64 & 62) and lost a few others before they went off the bite. Spent some time casting around the north wall, plenty of hits but no hookups. Decided to take another break until dawn, but as conditions were so good anchored off the end of the north wall and put down a live yellowtail. Around 2am I was awoken by the sound of a screaming ratchet(they should make an alarm clock for fisho's with that sound, gets you awake fast!) Set the hook and it didn't stop, pulled off 100m+ of line before the hooks pulled. Put down another yellowtail and went back to bed.
Woke at 4.30am and checked the bait but it was gone. Had one yellowtail left but wanted to save him for the run in tide later on in the morning. Worked the walls a bit until sunup, a few hits but nothing wanted to commit. At dawn had a look around but nothing going, a few dart hitting small bait along the current lines on the run in tide, some tailor on the wavebreak flats and along the north wavebreak wall but only coming up for one hit at a time. Once the tide began to run in, I deployed my last yellowtail, it got eaten but no hookup, brought him back to the boat with some serious teethmarks in him. Went back to looking around but nothing going so I worked the north wall with one of my new lures and scored a tailor at 38cm. Ideal size for a livie, good for a big mulloway or a shark. I put him down and did a few drifts, changed position a bit put him down and something grabbed him and began to swim off, I let him swim for about 20 metres before setting the hook but it dropped it. From the teethmarks obviously a shark, adjusted the hooks and sent him down again and he got eaten on the next drift, unfortunately this time he was swallowed and the shark bit me off above the wire. Still nice to know there is something to target when all the other fish go off the bite. I'll be making up some longer shark traces and targeting them a bit more over winter. They might not be a glamour species but they fight hard.
Called it a day after that. Some decent quality fish if not alot of them, thats typical winter fishing though. Livebaiting has its moments and I'll be doing alot more of it over the next few months. I'll also be targeting big fish with large livebaits(30-40cm), just for the fun of it.. you never know what you'll get.
After the feeding frenzy of Monday morning as reported by Howard, Tuesday's effort was mild at best. We managed 1 GT and a jewie off the tip of the north wall just before first light before deciding to wait at the southern most edge of the Northern Y to see if the GT's would come up there along with the incoming tide. Sure enough they did, right within casting range of the boat. They only came up a couple of times in that area but we managed 3 all around the 60cm mark all on twisties but lost one big one on a popper. They then moved to the canyon where a couple of guys managed some trolling diving lures. There were some tailor down along the inside edge of the north Wavebreak sandbank. We also got one around the north wall casting twisties.
Water clarity has worsened and the crystal clear water has gone(thankfully). There were reports of Tarpon just north of Crab on the weekend. As for the rest of the week, the GT's seem fixated on the dawn time at the moment so I'm not sure if they will feed on surface given the tide won't be running in until after dawn. Best to check on the area in front of the north wall or do a bit of trolling around the canyon and northern Y if they do not show up.
Some of the feedback from the meetup is that many of you would like to see more reports from wider range of members. To that end I am going to hold a monthly competition for the best fishing report on SeawayFishing. The winning report won't be the one that has the biggest or most fish but a report that I decide shows the best of what SeawayFishing is all about. This is open to all members, paid or free. Free members must post reports in the Forum.
Things I will be looking at:
Quality and variety of pictures, not only fish pics but pictures showing the environment as well. Different perspectives on fishing will win high marks.
Details in the report - The how and why, what fish did you catch, techniques you tried, what worked and what didn't, areas you fished, water conditions etc.
Promptness of the report, how soon after the actual day the report was submitted for approval.
Feedback, if members ask you questions how soon do you reply.
Prize will change over time, August's prize is a Plano Tackle Box filled with lures including a 15gm Twistie, ST Flash Minnow 25, 2 11gm Blades, Flash pop 8, Lurch minnnow and a Zipbaits Vib 25.
Welcome to winter in the seaway. Calm seas, clear water and tough fishing. Still there has been some good fishing in the last week.
Decent size jewies have been the major catch in the last week, both on plastics and livies. Surprisingly many of them are just short of the legal size of 75cm, most of them around the 73cm mark but there has been a few bigger versions around. They are coming on the bite around the last hour of the run out and first hour of the run in. Fish during the night for the best results. Best spots have been The Canyon and the Deep Hole off the north wall, though the pipeline has held a few as well. Best plastics have been the gulp 7' jerskhads on 1-1.5oz heads, but use whatever it takes to keep the plastic near the bottom.
The big GT's have been very erratic this week, occasionally feeding on surface in big schools during the run in tides in the northern channel but some days not feeding at all. Poppers don't seem to be working anymore but drifting plastics through the school holding in the canyon is picking up a few fish as is trolling minnows that dive to around 2.5m like the XRD10, vision 111 and 120 laser pro. Trolling seems to be working better when the water is dirtier so its a good thing to start with just as the tide starts to run in.
Kingfish of various sizes have been around the northern channel during the run in tides, but sometimes only come up a few times it just depends on the day. I haven't heard of any catches this week despite some heavy feeding on Sunday and Tuesday so I guess no-one has found the magic lure or technique yet. Just throw whatever you have got on at them and cross your fingers.
The tailor have moved up the broadwater and can now be found feeding in the channels north of Crab Island up past Couran Cove Resort, the usual metals work if you can find them. You can also search them out by trolling metals like the 20gram twisty or minnows like the XR10 or Flash minnow 25.
There have been a few Tarpon around the walls but no big schools so you'll be working for them, I haven't seen or heard of any caught in the Northern Y the last 5 days so they might have moved on upstream. Still early in the season for them so hopefully they will return in bigger numbers.
There is a few small bigeye trevally, along with the odd small kingfish, school mackerel and other species of trevally holding off the end of the south wall during the run out tides, but you need to fish a light jighead with a baitfish profile(Flash J, Whitey, Flickbait) or a small blade to have a shot at them 1/8th or less will give you the best chances.
Dawn also sees a few tailor, small bigeyes and small GT's around the north wall on 20 gram twisties.
If all else fails there is plenty of Bream around on the bottom, near the north wall and North wavebreak wall, just put a 1/8thoz jighead into a banana prawn Gulp Shrimp and you should catch a few.
There should be large tuna holding over the deep reefs (18's, 24's, 36's)by now so if its good enough to go offshore, its worthwhile getting a few livies and drifting those reefs if the Seaway is yielding nothing.
This report is a combination of personal observation and conversation with other seaway members, thanks to all those who have contributed. For those who are coming to the meetup tomorrow, I'll see you then.
Another week gone and this week the action during the morning run in tides was very mild, you had to find the fish then get them to eat. The afternoons had a bit more action but still less than what we are used to, perhaps winter is starting to make its presence felt.
The GT's which have been the biggest draw for the last couple of months spent the week sulking on the bottom. Surface feeding was rare, almost nonexistant during the morning run in tides. There is still plenty of bait around but the bait is down deep and not feeding on the surface which may be a reason the GT's have not fed up there. You need to find the schools of GT's and drop plastics down through them, deadsticking finesse plastics like the SF Anchovy or Fisharrow Flash J and slow rolling plastics like the pearl slider or grass minnows through the school works but you'll need to make alot of casts to get one to eat. Trolling deep diving minnows may also work if there are no other boats around. Earlier this week we found a school of GT's sitting on the bottom about 100m off the end of the north wall while it was still dark, these fish ended up taking pearl zman curl tail minnows worked really slow through the school. Keep an eye on that area during run out tides and on run ins sound around the canyon to try and locate the school. You need to go light on the jigheads though, nothing heavier than 1/4 oz as most of the time the fish grab them on the drop.
Smaller GT's, Bigeyes and Tailor have been around the end of the north wall and on the north wall flats just on dawn, not many of them though and the bite ends really quick so make sure you are there on time. 20 & 30 Gram Twisties and shallow running minnows like the Lucky Strike King Hunter/ SF Flash Minnow 15 & 25 have been working in this area.
There have been schools of dart around the north wall as well, usually when there is a bit of swell running, these fish aren't large(up t0 40cm) but they are a bit of fun if nothing else is biting, throw small 7 gram slugs around the washes to connect with one of these feisty little fish.
Tarpon are still around in the Northern Y during the second half of the run out, occasionally feeding on surface but more often sitting just off the bottom. Slow rolling paddle tail plastics on 1/4 or 3/8oz heads like Grass minnows, sliders or slick rigs works if they are feeding. Just cast out let it sink to the bottom then slowly wind it back to the boat. They are also around the walls as well but the numbers just don't seem to be there lately, its just been 1 or 2 fish a session.
There have been a few tailor working around the broadwater in the afternoons, just look for the birds and chuck slugs at the school, remember that the majority of the school is sitting below, so let those slugs sink a bit for the best result. They have also been taking livebaits fished in the eddy at the north wall.
Some decent jewies have been caught on live pike, herring and mullet, try the times around the top or bottom of the tides just when it starts to slow or speed up. Lures have accounted for some smaller fish. Locations include the pipeline, north wall deep hole and the canyon. There is tons of sea mullet around the north wall of the seaway and North wall of wavebreak in the eddies so that means the really big jewies should be around or are not far away, try catching one in a cast net or with a slug and dropping one to the bottom during the nigh or at dawn or dusk and you might connect with a jewie over that magic metre mark.
Lastly there is a film crew camped out on half of the boat ramp at The Grand, I'm not sure if they will still be there on the weekend, might be best to avoid that area, either that or get there early.
Good news is that I am nearly back to full health so I should be able to get back into it properly next week.
Here's a video showing you how to tie the perfect double uni knot for joining your braid to leader. Its fast and simple and works. This is for all of you that have requested it and those of you who tie the worst looking knots in the universe...you know who you are......
I haven't managed to get out much this week due to a nasty cold/flu thing but I still managed a couple of trips. Feel free to correct something if you disagree.
Fishwise, GT's are still around on the second half of the run in tide, the size is all over the place with a few 70+ fish caught, lots in the 55-60cm and the odd runt to make things interesting. The bustups during the day have been fairly quick and usually only one hookup out of a school before they sound, they have been alot more aggressive just on dusk and dawn staying up for longer and less fussy. A range of lures are working, plastics, slugs and poppers but accuracy seems important, so aim for the thickest parts of the bustups.
Mid size Tarpon have still been around in the Northern Y during the last half of the runout tide but numbers seem to be dwindling, try dropping a plastic on a 3/8oz jighead(any paddle tail minnow would do)down to the bottom and slow roll it back to the boat and you might be in with a shot. Bigger versions have been around the seaway rock walls at night but not as predictable, just work the edges and eddies until you start getting tapped then go over that area a few times to make sure.
There are some decent jewies around on the bottom during the slower parts of the tides(start and finish), so drop your jerk shads or larger plastic shads to the bottom during those times and you might connect with a decent jew or two.
Tailor have been in small and medium size schools in the Northern Channel mainly in the afternoons but nothing bigger than about 45cm, the north wall has held a few small schools as well. Any sort of metal works fine, as does shallow running minnows. No sign of any bigger fish.
There have been a few small to medium sized bigeyes around at night, there are some big schools holding at the end of the north wall at times but only a couple seem to be feeding. There have been some big schools moving upstream into the rivers and around the bridges, thats typical winter behaviour for them.
As we head into the colder months, hairtail should show up in the slower moving deeper holes and hopefully some salmon should show up as well. There is tons of bait around still so hopefully we should get a few more visitors to the seaway and broadwater.
There are plenty of fishing options there for the long weekend. Looks like some strong SE winds Saturday afternoon/Sunday morning so remember to fish according to the conditions and stay safe.
Tarpon. The name is almost mystical, spoken about in hushed tones by those in the know. Highly sought after by sportfisherman yet rarely caught these leaping silver demons visit the seaway every year from March through to August, sometimes in big numbers. The average size of Seaway Tarpon is big, around 60cm with occasional fish nudging the 70cm mark. Yet the amount of people that specialise in catching them in the Seaway can be counted on one hand. There is a couple of reason's for that.
Firstly, Tarpon are hard to catch in the Seaway consistently. It requires hours of casting, casting and more casting.... did I mention you'll have to do alot of casting? Sure sometimes you'll turn up and the fish will be on the bite from the first cast, but most of the time the fish move around and you'll have to locate where they are holding on the day...and that means lots of casting. Secondly, consistently catching Tarpon means fishing at night around the walls and some people are not comfortable with that which is fair enough, it should not be attempted anyway except for those with a long history of fishing the seaway during the day. Knowledge of how the Seaway's currents and wind directions affect your boats drift is essential for safety. Good night vision is also essential. Between 9pm and 5am you are on your own and there is noone to help if you get into difficulty. You should always be wearing a lifejacket fishing at night around the seaway walls.
At the moment Tarpon are easier to catch than ever in the Seaway, you can even do it during the day. All you have to do is turn up halfway during a runout tide any time of day and fish the bottom of the Northern Y(see Map 1) with plastics. Just cast out, let it sink and slow roll it back. Simple.. Well hooking them is simple, landing them can be quite difficult(understatement of the year there).
This article is not about this abberration of behaviour, this is not likely to last very long and I want to concentrate on proven longer term methods. That means fishing at night around the edges of the seaway walls. Now , the one thing I'm not going to do is put down exact locations on where to look. That would be pointless anyway as they move around from day to day and where they were yesterday is not where they will be today. Sometimes they will be tightly packed in one small area, others they will be spread out over the entire wall. Some nights they'll be right in close to the rocks in a metre or so of water, others they'll be sitting near the bottom in 20 metres of water. Just concentrate on casting your plastics at the edges of the seaway walls, as close as possible while keeping an eye on your sounder and soon enough you'll be hooking Tarpon.
Tarpon prefer to feed at night or in low light conditions, those massive eye's have a superior edge over anything else in the water and makes it easy to hunt the baitfish they are after. They will feed during the day but prefer dirty or discoloured water. Tarpon will feed whether the moon is up or down, if it is calm or it is blowing 30kts, if it's raining or not, at any stage of the tide or in any swell size. Of course just because they can feed during all of those doesn't mean they will. The one thing that can be said about Tarpon is that they are lazy, you won't find them in places of strong current, chances are they will be close by though, in an eddy close to the current that brings them the food. They wan't maximum return for smallest effort. On the smaller tides they will be closer to the ends of the walls, on larger tides further back down the walls where there is still places for them to sit and grab food without expending too much energy.
If you've been paying attention then you will know that my favourite plastic is the CCM(Chika Chika Muroran) Ecogear Grass Minnow M on a 3/8oz head. This little plastic has accounted for hundreds of Tarpon(and lots of GT's,Tailor, Bigeyes) and is my go to lure when they are fussy. Other plastics that get an honourable mention are the 70 & 85mm Dropbear Slick Rigs and Zman 2.5" Pearl curl tails. Most plastics will work if they are in the mood and I've even caught quite a few on shallow running minnows like the Lucky Strike King Hunter and others up to 14cm in length. Make sure your jigheads are up to the task as well, heavy duty jigheads are a must. I prefer TT 3/8 or 1/2oz 3/0H in the the plain or headlockz varieties.
Any light spinning outfit can handle Tarpon, as long as it has a decent drag. They don't fight dirty, thier runs are short and most of the time is spent in the air not in the water. Most fights are over in minutes. What you do need however is a decent leader, 30lb minimum. Tarpon are quite capable of wearing through 20lb leader in a single fight but 30 seems to be able to handle a couple of fish without changing. Keep an eye on that leader though, if you are hooking alot it will need cutting and retieing every few fish. If you don't you'll end up losing lures. For this reason I usually start with a longer leader than usual, around 1.5 metres. A standard jighead rigged plastic works fine but if you find yourself looking for a rig that has a slightly higher retention rate after the first jump, look at the Texas rig. Thats just a running sinker straight down to a straight hook, I use a gamakatsu SST 15 in size 1/0. The running sinker gives the tarpon much less leverage to throw the hook on its jumps. It's not perfect but then no rig is when it comes to these fish.
When casting the edges for Tarpon with plastics, there are two techniques you need to learn, The Slow Roll and Deadsticking. Don't jig it, don't flick it or do anything fancy it will only make them lose interest. The Slow Roll is simply casting out and slow winding back. Deadsticking is just letting it sit there and drift in the current, mainly used when the Tarpon are close to the bottom or out a bit from the wall in deeper water. If there are Tarpon in the area, you soon know because of....
The Tarpon Tap
This isn't a fancy new dance step, if you want to chase Tarpon then you have to learn to recognise the Tarpon Tap. This is what Tarpon do when they aren't feeding aggressively(which is most of the time). They come up behind your lure and nudge it, hit it, grab it with just the front of thier mouth. This registers on the line as a tap, sometimes they will do this multiple times on a single retrieve, sometimes they will grab it after a few taps, sometimes they will tap it all the way to the boat before grabbing it, others they will lose interest. The best indication you are in the right area for Tarpon is the tap so learn to recognise it and if you get just one tap on a drift make sure you cover that area again on a second drift. Sometimes Tarpon need to be teased into biting so doing multiple drifts is important.
Hookup & Fight
So you have your lure in the water, slow rolling and you are getting tapped, what happens next. Well the hookup is next and you only strike when you feel the weight of the fish, once you strike you can expect the Tarpon to come shooting out of the water immediately, most tarpon are lost on the first jump. After the first jump they will usually swim straight at you to create slack line and then jump close to the boat quite often throwing the lure right back at you(Tip: Wear Safety Glasses if you value your eyesight). A Tarpon jump is a thing of wonder, they will launch themselves around a metre out of the water and proceed to shake thier heads up to 10 times in a single jump, if they do this multiple times during a fight and the fish is hooked deeply thats the equivalent of around 50 rubs on your leader with a coarse sandpaper. No wonder they are experts at wearing through light leaders. There is no best method in staying hooked up to a Tarpon, sometimes they will stay attached, sometimes they won't but when they are near the boat I reccomend keeping the rod tip as high as possible, this will increase the line pressure and reduce the amount of slack line given to the fish when he jumps. If you are really keen you can use one of his jumps to propel him into the boat.
Landing a tarpon is difficult, you can lift them into the boat on the trace if you are feeling brave, the best method is a landing net but they still have plenty of juice left when you are trying to net them and this is when many rods are broken. Tarpon do not stop fighting when they get into the boat, if anything thats when they take it into high gear. I use the term 'wrestling' when a tarpon gets into the boat, the larger fish in particular will just not stop moving. Getting them to sit still enough for a photo is difficult and getting them to sit still for a mat shot is damn near impossible. For this reason I reccomend taking a photo of only one fish per session and immediately releasing the rest. Don't think using a pair of lip grippers will help you either because it won't. They will quite happily struggle so much you will end up tearing thier mouth apart with the grippers, not good for a fish you intend on releasing. Holding them upside down will calm the fish enough to get the hook out.
Lastly but most importantly, Tarpon should be released or considered a catch and release only fish. They are full of bones, apparently taste terrible and they smell even worse so let them go for another day.
So in summary, Tarpon are a hard fish to find, to hook, to stay attached to, to land, to photograph, to measure. In short the ultimate target for any sportsfisherman. They are highly addictive, very frustrating and my favourite of all the seaway species. If you decide to take up the challenge of the seaway Tarpon and you find yourself cursing me in the middle of the night after you have lost your 10th straight tarpon without getting a fish in the boat... Don't say I didn't warn you.
Welcome to the SeawayFishing Lure Reference Guide Part 3 Soft Plastics. Here you can find details of all the lures that I and others use when fishing in the seaway. If you see a lure mentioned in a report look it up here, all these lures have caught fish in the seaway. This page will be updated as new lures are found. Lures are listed in found order. Other lure types will follow shortly. If you have a lure you think should be included let me know.
Ecogear Grass Minnows
Length: 3" Type: Paddle Tail
Best colours: Chica Chica Muroran, Pearl, Midnight Glow, Albino Kisu
Toughness: Poor, will last a couple of fish if you are lucky