Hilton Head Tarpon Fishing
Explosive, powerful, acrobatic and exhausting are some of the terms I think of when Tarpon fishing in Hilton Head. Fishermen travel the world in pursuit of these incredible prehistoric fish just to have a shot at boating one. They typically show up off Hilton Head in early July and stay till mid-October.
Tarpon in Hilton Head are much larger than expected, averaging 75-150lbs and up to 6ft long! This might be the only fish that when hooked, I get more excited than my customers. The huge jumps and crazy runs are a blast, but can also be very short-lived. Tarpon have unusually bony jaws which make it difficult for a solid hook set.
Tarpon tackle and bait are important. Our local menhaden and mullet are Tarpon favorites. Depending on the location, we'll be using both live and dead bait. These baits will be staggered out to cover the water column. For the tackle; we'll be using Shimano TLD25's with 40lb test line along with Shimano TLD15's with 20lb test line, all rigged with mono and fluorocarbon leaders.
In July of 2013 I was booked by a group from Columbus, OH. We set off that morning with a few laughs and a simple request, "anything fun". We shoved off at 8am and caught bait relatively easy that morning. One throw of the cast net and we had enough bait to last the day. The charter was a 5 hour, so I knew I had enough time to gamble and see if we could hit a homerun right off the bat. If one particular spot was a little slow, I had a great back up plan where I know we'd stay busy. But I had aspirations of a Tarpon. Reports from a reliable source said they were seen in a specific area the day prior. It was a bit of a gamble, but I knew if we could land a Tarpon my customers would go nuts. And my philosophy has always been to not just have an average day. I want people walking away thinking that this charter just made their vacation. The plan was to give it about an hour, then go to my original choice. As I was dropping the anchor, I saw a couple of Tarpon rolling in the distance, which gave me a little reassurance that I chose the right spot. Within a few minutes of having the lines out, we were busy catching small Bonnethead sharks mixed with a few Sharpnose sharks. As time goes by, I began seeing a few more Tarpon. Then, all of a sudden we witnessed a huge explosion on the surface-bait and the reel was screaming. Huge jumps ensued as we realized it was what we were after, a giant Tarpon! We immediately pulled anchor and gave chase. The fish was far, it had run 300 yards of line out of the reel in less than a couple of minutes. The angler was a young man, maybe late teens, and his father was cheering him on like he was running the bases. After about an hour of fighting the Tarpon, we had finally pulled within 50 yards of landing him. Cameras were ready for the arrival and the angler was praying the line wouldn't break. We all became more and more confident that we would see this giant Tarpon in mere minutes. As the Tarpon got within 5 yards of the stern of the boat, I reached for my gloves and readied myself to grab it. Just as I got the last glove on, the largest dorsal fin I had ever seen flew in like a jet and lunged at the Tarpon. Within one gulp, the 6ft Tarpon was completely GONE, entirely eaten. We screamed, jumped back and couldn't believe what we witnessed. It was the largest Hammerhead shark I had ever seen. I guess the chomp from the Hammerhead was so severe the leader never even had a chance to tighten up and it was cut on impact. We watched in awe as the Hammerhead just slowly swam down in a pool of blood, partially disappointed and partially stunned. This was a lot to absorb for all of us and I believe we were all speechless, blown away, and freaked out all at the same time. To make a long story short, this is a common occurrence, having a fish eaten by a shark. I've had it happen a handful of times and I've heard countless stories of sharks eating half a Tarpon, a whole Kingfish or Cobia. But something I've never seen is a shark large enough to completely engulf a 6ft Tarpon in one lunge. It was massive! We ended the day shark fishing for the Hammerhead, but wound up landing two Lemon sharks in the 8ft range. You know you've left quite an impact on your customers when they're still re-telling the Tarpon-Hammerhead story as they're fighting an 8ft shark. It was a memorable day to say the least. A little disappointing, but how many times can you watch a National Geographic moment 5 yards off the stern?
Call us today at 843.290.0371 to set up a trip for you and your group or family!