1. How big are they?
Answer: NC traditionally holds only large tarpon. Tarpon migration is not a well understood phenomenon, and I really don’t know why the little ones don’t make the trip up the coast. In North Carolina, the typical tarpon is 80 to 120 pounds. Often, they are caught larger. The state record is 193 lbs. 5 oz. It was caught in 2008 at Topsail Island.
2. What do you use for bait?
Answer: Whatever fresh baitfish are present. I take extra precaution to catch a plentiful amount of bait for each trip. Nothing substitutes fresh bait. I like croaker, pinfish, bluefish, menhaden, and crabs. I have had good success with fresh dolphin belly meat too.
3. What kind of rods and reels do I use?
Answer: I use Penn 850 SS spinning reels on 7-foot custom rods. I also use Penn 750 SS spinning reels. The 850 SS will hold 380 yards of 20 lb. test mono. The 750 SS will hold only 290 yards of 20 lb. test mono. The 850 SS gives me a bit more confidence. Properly fished, either reel is capable of doing the job. I also use Shimano TLD 15 conventional reels. The TLD 15 holds 450 yards of 20 lb. test mono. It also has a 4.0:1 gear ratio and lever drag. Being a conventional reel, it doesn’t twist the line if accidentally reeled against the drag either. The TLD’s will get the job done and then some.
4. Where do you usually catch them?
Answer: All over. It depends from day to day. Seeing fish does not equal getting them to bite. Frustrating is an understatement. However, do the right thing over and over…and you will get a tarpon.
5. Any tips for somebody doing it on their own?
Answer: Yes, several.
- Use sharp hooks. Tarpon have very tough mouths. Sharpen your hooks, and set the hook repeatedly and hard!
- Chum excessively. It’s nasty, but it helps. Exciting the fish (and having baits presented throughout the water column) is the best way to evoke a bite.
- Be patient. Don’t give up.
- If you’re catching a bunch of skate (rays), you’re doing it exactly right!
Good luck, and tight lines!!