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February 10, 2009

Megalops under the Bridge

How tarpon pros fish bridges for consistent success

"It takes a lot of shrimp to feed that big bulk," he adds.

Bridge-fishing techniques vary with anglers' tackle. LeMay, for example, eases his skiff up to the first set of pilings and kills the motor. He does not anchor; rather, he grabs the piling and scans the bridge shadows for any lurking tarpon. If he spots a fish, LeMay instructs his client to cast up-current and about 10 feet out of the light.

LeMay stresses that anglers must start their retrieve immediately when a bait hits the water to get it moving like an organism swimming in the current. Otherwise, it will start drifting and not move naturally. If that happens, the tarpon will not even notice the offering.

"A tarpon will eat anything that resembles a shrimp, but it has to move like one," says LeMay. "If you notice, when shrimp get real nervous, they start hopping and skipping. You want a lure or fly to resemble that."

LeMay prefers a light touch with his tackle: 10- to 12-pound-class spinning tackle and 8- or 9-weight fly rods. He rigs his spinning tackle with shrimp-imitators such as the 1/4-ounce D.O.A. Shrimp. His preferred fly for the long rod is one of    his own creation - the Night Fly. Color doesn't seem to make a substantial difference, although white is always a popular choice. Again, according to LeMay, the important part of the illusion is that the lure acts like a shrimp.

Getting Gruff
Anglers in larger boats usually don't move right up to the bridge pilings to sight-cast to individual tarpon. Kostyo anchors his 28-foot custom Whitewater center console 30 to 50 feet up-tide from the shadow line, then deploys two or three conventional rigs. His tackle is made up of All Star Coastal Series rods outfitted with Penn 320 Lever Drag reels loaded with 20-pound Trilene Big Game.

"The rods can handle a lot of stress," says Kostyo. "And 20-pound line is more than ample to handle some of the bigger fish."

Kostyo rigs with a 50-pound-test, abrasion-resistant leader (either monofilament or fluorocarbon) and 8/0 Eagle Claw P190 or L2004EL circle hooks. He then drifts his bait - usually a large live shrimp, but Kostyo has had success with silver-dollar-size blue crabs as well - back into the shadows and puts the rod into a holder with the clicker engaged. Then the waiting begins.

"When the rod bends over, the fish is on," says Kostyo. "If there is no hit in 20 minutes, I'll move."

"The nice thing is there are usually hundreds of tarpon feeding, so we don't have to wait long."

The weather is nicer than in Norway, and the only real trolls involve offshore fishing, but there are monsters lurking around south Florida's bridges. And they're waiting.