Caleb had just tossed the live menhaden out. The rod immediately bent double and the line sizzled off the reel.
Thirty yards behind the boat, the chrome-plated behemoth went ballistic, giving us a show of acrobatics second to none. And then, in the blink of an eye, he was gone.
Caleb looked at me with that “what happened?” face. All I could say was, “That’s tarpon fishing, son!”
If there is a silver lining to the dark cloud of the dog days of late summer fishing, it would be the silver king or tarpon. They invade our local waters in full force in late August and September. Averaging 80 to 120 pounds, there are few fish that can equal the ferocity of the tarpon when hooked up.
Keeping them on the hook is the problem.
How many you “jump,” as opposed to how many you catch, is the normal conversation amongst anglers discussing their day of tarpon fishing. With mouths like cement and multiple head-shaking aerial displays you have to be lucky to keep the hook in. Super tight drags, not normally recommended, seem to increase your odds of a hook-up.
Both ends of the Island are bordered by sandbars that stretch seaward for miles. The big schools of menhaden wash in and out with the tides. They often seek the shallow waters around the bars, looking for sanctuary from the marauding tarpon. Anglers usually concentrate their efforts along these sandbars, although many tarpon are caught in deeper holes too.
These big silver fish also can be found in local rivers and creeks. I have heard anglers tell of how they were reeling in a speckled trout back in the creek only to have a tarpon take their trout and their line. Fishing the shallow edge of deep holes in creeks can be quite productive, as tarpon are often seen “rolling” in these spots.
As with most “ultimate gamefish,” a few seconds on the rod will encourage anglers to spend hours of waiting to repeat the experience. Fishing for tarpon in the Lowcountry is an unforgettable experience for anglers of all skill levels.
A one-word description of tarpon? Awesome!
Written by Captain Miles Altman of Bayrunner Fishing Charters who has more than 42 years of experience fishing the waters surrounding Hilton Head Island. Don’t miss the new Finatic boat, which can accommodate up to 12 passengers and features a special three-hour shark/dolphin eco-tour trip. Contact Miles at 843-290-6955 or visit bayrunnerfishinghiltonhead.com to book an unforgettable inshore or offshore charter fishing trip. Trips depart from Shelter Cove Harbour Marina.