Inshore Fish!ing Report

Biscayne Bridge Tarpon

Miami Beach, Fl

June, 1999

by: Jim Sawyer
Photos by: Jeannie Hidalgo

If you have read any of my sections on Peacock Bass you will probably recognize the name Carlos Hidalgo. He is the author of the book "South Florida's Peacock Bass " and he took Ron Looi and I peacock bass fishing in my article "Peacocks Headed East?". At the end of the article I mention that Carlos, Capt Chris Asaro and I took a later trip to the Miami International Airport Lakes and showed a picture of Chris with a peacock he caught there. Soon after that trip Carlos began an article for Florida Sportsman Magazine about peacock bass fishing at the Lakes and it was published in the June, 1999 issue "Casting Down the Runway". I dropped Carlos an Email to congratulate him on the article and he mentioned that he had a second piece in the May/June issue of Fly Fishing in Salt Waters, "Doing the Tarpon Tango".

Carlos Hidalgo with Biscayne Bay tarponTarpon Tango is all about night fishing for tarpon along the causeway bridges that cross Biscayne Bay. I mentioned that I had heard about this fishery, but had never tried it. Well, one thing led to another and a time and date were set up to introduce me to a real Miami treat. The time and date were important for this trip because the right conditions only exist after dark on an ebb tide. We chose June, 11 with a Miami Harbor Entrance high tide at 7:15 PM and sunset at 8:12 PM.

We kept to the plan despite a whole week of rain, and in fact it was still raining when we launched the boat. We put in at the Miami Beach ramp at Sunset Harbor Marina and were treated to a beautiful Miami sunset as we made a short run south to the MacAuthur Causeway. (The ramps on Watson Island would be another good launch site.) With us was Carlos' wife Jeannie who was our photographer for the night. We arrived just before dark and took up position under the east bridge that connects the causeway to Miami Beach. We stayed at this bridge, but several others in the area work just as well.

The most important feature you are looking for on a bridge is the traffic lights along its edge. These lights shine down into the water and create a shadow line along the edge of the bridge. As bait is washed through the light by the outgoing tide, the tarpon swim parallel to the bridge just inside the shadow line. To position your boat, you want to:

  • Move down current through the center span and then come back up current to the span you want to fish.
  • Choose a span with a light directly overhead.
  • Position the boat close enough to see the tarpon in the shadow line, but not so close that you spook them. On this night the tarpon were not boat shy and they were often within a rod's length of the boat.
  • Turn off your motor and hold onto the pilings to keep the boat in position. This is a two man trip. Once you have hooked a tarpon under the bridge there is no time to cast off a line and there was no place to tie one where we were.

Once in position you want to begin moving your offering with the tide across the shadow line. Carlos was using a 10 wt. flyrod and I had 12 and 20 lb. spinning rods. Thirty to forty pound leaders are recommended. Light colored lures were the obvious favorites. Carlos recommends several flys in his article and I was using DOA standard and select shrimp in the Nite Glo color (there was a late shrimp run on). Carlos advised that the best plan when you spot a tarpon was to cast about 5 ft. ahead of him and about 5 ft. up current into the light. Then move the lure back with the current to intercept the tarpon swimming in the shadow. Tarpon appear as dark shadows in the water. They were easy to spot this night, but that isn't always the case. Blind casts across the shadow line can also be effective. One thing I noticed was that while most fishing on a falling tide is better in the late stages, this time the fish turned on as soon as there was enough current to move the bait and it was dark enough to create the shadow line. We had our first bite right at full dark.

Carlos releases tarpon #2As soon as you have a tarpon hooked-up, the driver needs to cast off the boat, start the engine and motor slowly away from the bridge, while the angler tries to convince the tarpon to follow along. All this while the tarpon is leaping and thrashing about between the pilings. The tarpon has all the advantage here so a firm, but careful touch is needed. When, or if, you get away from the bridge more pressure should be used to boat the tarpon before it is exhausted. Carlos was 2 for 3 this night and I went 0 for 1 when my fish jumped across the bow and I decided to duck instead of bow to the silver king. Both fish landed were in the 20 - 30 pound range. Carlos has seen more and larger tarpon on earlier trips. The heavy rains probably had some effect. Our fish seemed to turn off around midnight. We could have tried other bridges, but I was having a little motor trouble so we called it a night.

Four tarpon in four hours fishing and only one hour's drive from home sounds pretty good to me. Carlos was a little disappointed and seemed to think it was a slow night. I intend to go back to find out why.

If you would like to give it a try, two local captians familiar with these bridge tarpon are Capt. Bob LeMay (954) 435-5666 and Capt. Doug Lillard (954) 894-9865.

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Last modified on 06/13/99.