Fishing Big Tarpon with Poppers

by Fly Fisherman

Big tarpon react to poppers in much the same way as big stripers do. A small popper may get a small one but more than likely it will go unnoticed by the whoppers. Yet with a single pop of a big bug, the angler can turn that same big tarpon from as far away as 50 feet.Tarpon
From five inches to 200 pounds, tarpon, more than any other salt water fish, fall for a well placed fly or bug. A six-inch tarpon will hit as boldy. jump and fight with the same abandon, in minature, as his full grown pappy. And the little fellows will frequently hit just as big and bright a lure, too, the only reason for using the smaller one being that the babies sometimes are difficult to hook with a large lure.
In the Tamiami Trail Canal and along the Flamingo Road Canal near Homestead, Florida, schools of these tarpon, moving along and feeding with the tide, provide some of the most exciting small fish angling to be found anywhere. The fish range in size from two to 20 pounds, with a few as big as 3o pounds. In the autumn, after the spawning season, there are often schools of them as small as eight inches in length, and these make wonderful decorative mounts.

On one trip to Flamingo, I was fishing with Curt Gowdy, official broadcaster for the Boston Red Sox, when we got into a school of those tiny fellows.
“I’ve never seen such small tarpon,” said Curt, when we spied them rolling in West Lake. “What fly will take them?”
“Try one of those small bream popping bugs,” I suggested. “They’ll hit on top, and that should be just about the right size.”
It was. Curt’s first cast got a hit and we watched that eightinch•long silver kinglet leap and turn on a really good scrap for his size.

Later, in the Tamiami Trail Canal, we connected with some of his 3o-pound brothers and had the same sport on a grander scale.
Often in these canals it is necessary to run or drive in order to keep ahead of the fish, so quickly do they move down the narrow canal. So the fishermen tear along, running, casting, getting hits and landing fish or losing them. Then back into the car again, and the same thing all over again, sometimes for several miles, until the school either goes down under the constant pounding of flies and poppers, or disappears with the tide.


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