About Bud N' Mary's

Bud N' Mary's Fishing Marina is located in Islamorada, Florida, The Sportfishing Capital of The World!  It was established in 1944, and over the years has been one of the most famous sportfishing destinations in the world!  It is home to over 40 of the finest offshore captains and backcountry guides.  We also have a spectacular party fishing boat, the Miss Islamorada.  There is also a great dive shop, boat rentals, motel, boat storage, transient dockage, and tackle store.  We will be posting fishing related events, catches, media publications, and overall news concerning Bud N' Mary's here, so keep tuned in!  You can contact Bud N' Mary's at 1-800-742-7945 or e-mail us:
bnmfm@budnmarys.com.

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How to catch Tarpon in Islamorada, The Florida Keys

Tarpon fishing in Islamorada is probably the single biggest draw as far as species goes that brings anglers down to the Florida Keys.  These fish are enormous, often approaching 200 lbs or better in this area.  In the spring and summer they migrate to the gulf of mexico to spawn and little the backcountry throughout the Florida Keys all the way through the Everglades National Park and beyond.  The Florida Keys is unique in that you can fish tarpon here almost year round since we have many resident fish that love the local bridges when alot of the larger migrating fish move on.  Of course we also have warm weather often year round, with the exception of some cold fronts in the winter time.  Prime time for fishing tarpon is usually April through June, however in Febuary sometime the fish usually start showing up - often back off the cape and islands in the everglades national park first, then start making their way towards the rest of the keys closer to home where we often fish are morning and evening trips.  They are found consistently through September and usually start thinning out then, but as previously stated if the weather is warm there is a good chance they will be around somewhere!  Often times in the fall we experience some mullet runs and the fish will all of a sudden show up everywhere again, especially in the backcountry!  Florida Keys Tarpon prefer the water temperature to be in the high 70 to high 80 degree water temperature, anything lower than 70 and it gets tough to get bites out of them, and onced it gets 65 or lower they usually dissappear for a while seeking warmer water in the ocean.  In the Islamorada area, there are many channels and bridges that often hold fish.  Around sunrise and sunset are often good times to fish, the middle of the day usually being the toughest.  They tend to bite better during the day in the backcountry (muddier water) than they do nearby tarpon fishing Islamorada.  Tide is very important  too, while they bite on both tides, a falling tide is generally better.  Some areas though are different, and fish bite in phases.  Often they will bite at a certain point in the tide and continue to do so for several days.  It doesn't take an expert to find these fish usually, however catching them is a different story!  You will often see tarpon rolling on the surface as they gulp air to fill their bladders - a unique feature of tarpon.  They also often will be busting bait and such nearby.  We often live bait fish for tarpon, using a variety of baits that for the most part we float on the surface.  Mullet, crabs, pinfish, and occasionally shrimp are the primary baits.  For gear most people prefer heavy spin tackle (BG 60 or 90 with a medium-heavy or heavy rod) or conventional tackle (TLD 15 or 20, with medium-heavy or heavy rod).  Spin is a great choice as you can cast it and is often easier to use, though conventional really lets you pull on fish which is helpful especially around other boats, bridges, channel markers, etc...  For the mainline monofilament is preferred as it will stretch which is key especially when a tarpon jump, braid you will pull a lot of hooks with if you do not have a long stretch of mono for your wind-on leader.  20-30 lb mainline is good, for braid I prefer heavier 50 lb or even 80 lb.  I like to have a good section of 60 lb wind-on leader going to my swivel that is at least 25 feet long.  This gives you good protection if the line hits the boat or bridge or anything, as the fish is often being fought while fairly close to the boat.  You can also grab and pull on this somewhat to try and leader the fish up, however remember it is not heavy enough to take wraps and really pull!  You can either anchor up or drift for tarpon.  Once you've spent some time studying the fish and the area, you will realize there are often certain alleys these fish travel.  Along the edges of flats, over areas of potholes, around structure such as bridges or markers, current edges, etc... You will notice boats often taking turns as they drift these areas one by one.  It is VERY IMPORTANT to be corteous when florida keys tarpon fishing in highly trafficked areas.  This means give plenty of room for other boats, especially those fighting fish.  Don't run past boats that are making drifts or anchoring up.  If you must go close to them, at least slow down and idle by.  If you are drifting along with other boats, try to stay in order with the others, don't run over the area where you are all drifting, and don't anchor and fish where other boats are obviously already drifting.  Drifting is often preferred when fishing live baits as you can cover a lot of ground, and it is easy to get on a hooked fish to prevent them from losing you in structure such as a bridge.  You can anchor and fish live baits such as mullet, though when using crabs or pinfish, be sure to watch the current flow.  If the current is running to hard your baits will spin and/or die, so look for an area where the current is not flowing as hard to prevent this.  As far as setting the hook on a tarpon, everyone has a different opinion.  I've had the most luck just telling my anglers to just reel.  Tarpon have a very bony mouth (a sharp hook is very important!), so if you jerk initially the hook will often bounce off the jaw, so instead you want to just wind and apply steady pressure so the hook can set over time.  Anchoring is a must when fishing dead bait on the bottom.  I like to use as little weight as possible (often just a couple ounces) with the weights riding on your wind-on 60# leader tied to your swivel.  For leader again use 80# or 100# test tied to a circle hook.  Vary the size of your circle hook to the size of the bait, anywhere from a 4/0 to 8/0.  As far as dead bait goes mullet is one of the best, along with bellies out of mahi-mahi.  However just about anything will work and some days one thing works better than others.  When hooking the bait make sure to allow the hook to come out of the bait easily, don't bury it in funny.  You don't really need to be on the very bottom, and remember using any more weight than that will often cause fish to throw the hook as those weights swing around when they jump initially at the feel of the hook (which they almost always do).  I prefer to fish a light drag and let the fish hook themselves using this method, and slowly increase pressure once the fish settles down.  Also remember when a tarpon jumps you want to give them some slack (as they say, Bow to the King!).  Tarpon are notorious for throwing hooks when performing their acrobatics!  Once you have hooked a fish it is best to chase after them with the boat.  Most fisherman have a float attached to their anchor line (if they are using it) in order to be able to chase after them quickly.  You want to keep the fish ahead of the boat, allowing your angler to fight from the bow, and keep the fish and line from getting around other boats, bridges, markers, etc...  One trick when fighting a tarpon is knowing how and when to apply pressure.  When a fish is going nuts, jumping, running hard, etc... you want to just let them go.  This usually happens in the beginning of the fight.  You'll be able to tell when a tarpon settles down, and now begins the tug-of-war which can last for an hour or more!  To really subdue a tarpon you want to use your thumb on the drag of your reel (for conventional tackle) or your hand on the spool (spin tackle).  BE VERY CAREFUL doing this as the fish will feel the pressure and it may cause him to go nuts again - if this happens just let him go and you may even want to back your drag off a bit.  Once he is settled, use the added pressure from doing this and take the rod and pull the line directly back from where the fish is going (pull the line across his back).  This will cause the fish to work much harder to swim (and breathe), tiring them out much faster.  If you just pull up on the fish the battle can last much longer.  It takes a bit of practice to learn the feel and the safe time to apply such pressure, so only do this if you are getting really tired!  You want to let an angler really feel the power of these fish so an hour or more fight is a good thing, and I don't recommend adding manual drag for beginners.  Once a fish tires out the best way to take pictures is to put the boat in gear and drag them along side.  Or you can always jump in if your near a flat and hold the fish.  You are not allowed to pick tarpon up out of the water, and holding them by their gills is very bad for the fish, so be careful.  Good luck learning how to catch tarpon in islamorada, and catch 'em up!

Be sure to check out my Islamorada Tarpon Fishing Blog for daily updated tarpon reports! 

Capt. Rick Stanczyk
305-747-6903
rick@seethefloridakeys.net