Tom, Happy New Year Sir. I live in Naples, Florida and have been trying to locate the baby tarpon along Tamiami Trail by Everglades City. I was wondering if you could give some insight into what to look for while driving the trail that may indicate a good habitat for the tarpon to be there birds, vegetation, cover. I have located one spot that has them but cannot figure out why they are at this bridge but not others. Also could you suggest some fly patterns to use and also lures for spinning rods as I take my 5 year old son out there in hopes of him hooking into one. Thank you in advance.
Thanks for the question. I don't fish the canals as much as I might like to so I asked my friend Hai Truong if he could weigh in on your question. Hai is a guide who specializes in this type of fishing. It would be a great move to spend a day with him.
Here is Hai--
Tom & Tom,
Great question! The elusive freshwater tarpon & it's equally finicky partner in crime, the freshy snook. Over the decades, I have only found one technique that is the most effective but requires a stout stamina as the pattern includes fishing between 2-5am for best results in urban settings.
But that is a whole other story... local freshwater tarpons have little to no fear except for gators & humans. In my opinion, I think the freshy poons are much more difficult to locate, sight & land than in saltwater. I feel they're more sensitive & spook much more easily with mostly thin canals to navigate, that echo everything. The lakes that feed the connecting canals are usually loaded with residents, just as picky if not more so through conditioning & environment.
Not too much changes from what we know about poons in the salty stuff as they can religiously be found near levees, especially those dividing fresh & saltwater. The chances are better when the levee(s) are partially open as they tend to sit in etty-like positions, waiting to ambush passing prey.
Bridges are the next structure for obvious reasons, shelter. Its very hard for me to say why or why not tarpons are at one bridge and not another without putting in the time at that specific spot. There are many reasons for this specific cover, corresponding to the time of day as well. But, my best guess is either food source or proximity to food source. Who really knows why but the fact that you do know where is half the battle.
What I look for is signs of activity. Rolling tarpons are more likely to feed than laid up ones (chillers), often found on the open side of a levee in the Everglades. Smaller ones are much more responsive, especially with artificials. Another tell is the bubbles they make, the more I see the release of bubbles, the more I feel that the waters may have low oxygen, forcing them near the surface but often, you will find that they have lock jaw in this case, easily spooking.
I don't use birds so much as I do in saltwater. Again, I look for running water close to structure. Sometimes, the further you are from constant man-made noise, the more you will find them chilling out in the open (I cannot stress this enough). The most frustrating thing for most fishermen is seeing them or knowing where they are but not able to seal the deal. Welcome to my world, I have zero problems finding them, getting them to eat is whole other ball game.
The most successful way is using an appropriate sized circle hook, offset with the biggest shiners you can find. Use small shiners as chum to flush out any spots that look like they may be holding. A great way to condition & to get them munching. I like to have several sizes and types of baits if possible. Local live baits such as various cichlids (not all are legal to use & must be 4" or less), breams & blue gills are money. Compatible sized baits are key for faster hook ups after sighting. Tarpons range from schoolies to well over 120lbs+.
Fly: tarpon toad, deceivers, Clouser, EP micro minnows, EP pilchard & gurglers. I'm just getting into the "Everglade flies" but I find it more challenging & fun to "match the hatch". Often times, smaller is better. General rule year round, especially in spring & summer or pre to post bait runs.
I do not suggest putting a 5 yr old on a tarpon, even with a 50% success rate, that may turn the kid off from the sport. But some kids have much more natural ability. If throwing hard baits for tarpon in fresh or salt, I highly suggest replacing the trebles, add split rings totaling 2 on each hook & appropriate sized circle hooks. This allows a much higher hook up ratio, much less damage & stress to the poon. This is often used for top water, some lures may not react well to this pending on brand, style & angler.
Hope this was helpful.
Thanks so much Hai...great advice. If anyone would like to contact Hai for more information or fish with him, contact him on
If you enjoyed this post, please share on social media by clicking the share button below and selecting your favorite social platform