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June: Tarpon time!

June is prime time for tarpon along the beaches of southwest Florida. Although the focus will be tarpon for many anglers, there will still be decent fishing for reds and trout on the flats and snook in and around the passes and the surf. Our annual tarpon migration will be in full swing during June. Most schools of tarpon will be moving south along the beaches of Manatee and Sarasota counties as they make their way toward Boca Grande Pass.


They will rest and feed there before heading offshore on the full moon to spawn. Top live baits will be live blue crabs and a variety of baitfish. For those throwing lures or flies, fast-sinking plugs and plastic baits on spinning tackle and dark bunny flies fished on an intermediate fly line have worked best for me.

The best thing about beach tarpon fishing is that we are getting a shot at those fish before they reach Boca Grande Pass. We will also have some northbound fish, so anglers should keep a sharp eye in both directions. Although Boca Grande Pass is one of the main staging areas for spawning tarpon, they will gather in other passes and in Tampa Bay, so those northbound fish may be heading to those locations.

Areas of hard or rocky bottom, such as near Longboat Pass and from Point of Rocks south, will hold baitfish and also tarpon. They may "lay up" there overnight to rest or feed on plentiful baitfish. I like to be at the area I choose to fish at first light so when these fish begin to move, I am quietly waiting. When traveling along the beach before daylight, I run offshore rather than through the lane where tarpon may be located. I make sure that as I idle toward the beach I am ready to fish, since they could pop up at any time.

We seem to have more fishing pressure every year, so etiquette and courtesy becomes an important part of being successful. Although most of it is common courtesy, as Lefty Kreh once said "common sense ain't so common." Most important is to not run an outboard motor, including 4-stroke engines, closer than a couple hundred yards to tarpon. I sit still and wait for schools of tarpon to come to me, take my shots and let them go past me. After they are at least a couple of hundred yards past, I will idle way around on the outside and set up to take another shot.

Although nobody owns these fish, I never get between someone and a school of fish that they are working. If another angler is fly fishing a tarpon school, I let them have the school to themselves since boat handling is more critical in that situation. If you try to follow a school from behind with your outboard or sometimes even trolling motors, you will usually push them causing them to move faster and stay deep. The biggest factor is that you will be casting to the end that doesn't eat, their tails!

Snook season will remain closed during June, so any snook caught must be released. Since the water is warm, they will be come stressed quicker. You should try to land and release them quickly. I wouldn't recommend targeting them at all around the full and new moons, since this is when they are spawning.

One of the most fun ways to catch a snook during June is to sight-cast to them in the surf. Turtle Beach on the south end of Siesta Key and Nokomis Beach on the south end of Casey Key are both excellent areas to fish snook in the surf. I usually start between 8:00 AM and 9:00 AM, since you will want to have some sun to spot fish. Polarized sunglasses are a must in order to be able to see into the water. Snook will be found in the trough where the wave touches the sand, so you will want to walk 10 or 15-feet from the edge.

A 7 through a 9-weight fly rod with a clear mono sink-tip line or a medium-spinning rod is ideal. The sink-tip will get the leader and fly below any wave action that you may have. Baitfish patterns on fly tackle and jigs or plastic baits on spinning tackle should work well.

Night snook action will also be good during June. Docks and bridges close to passes will provide the best action. Just like other times of the year, they will feed best during peak tidal flows. Larger baitfish and shrimp patterns will work best during the summer, since this is what they are feeding on then.
Reds and trout will be good options on the flats, particularly early in the day when the water is cooler. The flats of north Sarasota Bay, lower Tampa Bay and Gasparilla Sound in Charlotte Harbor are my favorite areas. Casting a topwater plug over shallow grass flats or along the edge of a bar at first light in the morning is one of the best ways to catch a big trout. Also, jigs and soft plastic baits are among my favorites.

I find more reds on the outside bars early in the day during June. Since tides are higher, particularly later in the day, they will be harder to find then. They may bury up in the mangroves making them almost impossible to get to. Fishing the bars will also allow you to sight fish reds over white sand, which is one of my favorite ways to fish. I would use a jig or a weighted fly, such as a Clouser to get it in down front of a fish quickly.

Although reds, snook and trout are good options under the right conditions during June, it's hard for me to fish for anything but tarpon. These giant silver kings will be schooling all month long and June is the prime month. Watching them slurp a crab off the surface or seeing the big silver flash as one peels out of the school to eat your fly, is a thrill that's hard to beat. Whatever you choose to do, always remember to limit your kill; don't kill your limit!

Tight Lines,

Capt. Rick Grassett
 

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I sure wish I could be there.I spent alot of my youth in New Smyrna Beach and if was only an angler then. Oh well I'll get down there again someday. Have fun and tight thrashing lines to ya!! :D
 
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