Before you catch a tarpon, you have to get the right bait, so with the tarpon season approaching, we were wondering, what is the best bait for tarpon and snook and how do you catch the bait? So, we asked one of our favorite fishing guys, Captain Mike Adams. Captain Mike has been a licensed captain for over 13 years and has helmed fishing charters and hooked fish all over Florida, the Caribbean and the Pacific.
To catch a tarpon, when fishing with live bait, you can go with either crabs or bait fish. Captain Mike says, “Crabs, scaled sardines and threadfins are all great to use for tarpon. My personal preference is whichever bait gets the fish to bite!” Today, he’s gonna tell us how to get some of the area’s “universal bait” (the scaled sardine, white bait or “shiners”) by throwing a cast net. So, where do you find these little guys and how do you throw a cast net?
Step 1: Prepare Your Boat
Captain Mike says, “Before you start, you’ve gotta make sure you are prepared. Is your boat ready? For example, does it run? If yes, then next, you want to make sure your livewell is ready and that your cast net isn’t tangled up from the last time you used it.” Now you’ll need to get your boat to where the bait fish are and get your chum ready to go.
Step 2: Find the Bait
To find scaled sardines, you can look for the “raindrops” on the water and you can also look for where the birds are diving to catch the bait. The bait fish are coming from the beach and they like to go to the flats. Mike says, “I personally like to be in an area off the grass flat so it doesn’t look like I’ve just mowed the grass on my boat after bringing the cast net in.” Bridges and markers are always good places to look for bait as well.
A couple tips to remember: when cast netting for bait, it’s important to use a livewell rather than a regular bait bucket. “Using a bait bucket won’t work with scaled sardines. They are very sensitive, so you have to have a livewell.” Mike also stresses the importance of being courteous to other boaters.”Keep your distance and be polite. Treat others the way you would want to be treated on the water.”
Step 3: The Chum
Once you have your boat in an area of bait, you will want to attract more bait to your boat so when you throw your cast net, you can get a large amount in one throw. The best way to attract bait? Start chumming for them! So, you want to mix up your chum and start throwing it out in an even manner. You can buy chum at the bait store, but Captain Mike likes to make his own chum using Captain Scott Moore’s “World’s Best Chum Recipe.” Throw your chum out in a steady stream, by throwing in little bits at a time. Continue to chum for at least 10 minutes or until you feel like enough bait fish are “balled up.”
Step 4: How to Throw a Cast Net
Now that you have enough bait up close to your boat, it’s time to have “pancakes for breakfast.” Usually, you are getting bait early in the morning, so if you can “pancake” your cast net, you are officially having pancakes for breakfast in the fishing world. Captain Mike says that throwing a cast net is not as intimidating as you might think. “A lot of people think that you have to be really strong to throw a cast net, but that’s not true; it’s really more about the technique.” So, Captain Mike’s technique includes:
First, coil the line that attaches to the net in one hand. Put part of the lead line line in your mouth. Put half of the net on one side of you, and half on other side, then – you throw it! “The goal is to put the center of the net on the bait ball. You want to ‘pancake it,’ then let it sink to the bottom and pull the net in on itself. As you pull the net it, it traps everything inside.” (We will post a YouTube video soon that will show you how to throw a cast net, so keep checking back.)
Once you’ve got your bait and you’ve poured it into the livewell, Captain Mike then suggests you turn up the reggae, pop open a beer and move on to step five.
Step 5: Go Fishing!
Article by Amy Imerman
You can take the girl out of Florida, but you can't take Florida out of the girl. I grew up in Bradenton and moved to NYC when I got an internship at the David Letterman show (don't worry, I wasn't one of the interns who had an affair with the boss!) I eventually scored a job at CosmoGIRL magazine and then at MTV. But no matter how cool the job was, I hated dressing in layers, sweaters make me look bulky and I missed wearing flip-flops every day. I also missed my family. So, after 9 years of drinking waaay too many Cosmos and eating waaay too many BBQ nachos at Virgil's in Times Square, I moved back to the sunshine state. My life is now ruled by my two-year-old daughter, Olive. She loves going to the beach and playing in the sand. Just like Mommy.