15 Minutes with: Capt. Ross Gallagher
Here’s what we learned…
Location: Biscayne Bay Rickenbacker Causeway & Downtown Miami Bridges.
Tides: Either side of slack tide. Sometimes the slack tides produce great a bite as well.
Approach: Begin your approach to the bridge as quietly as possible. Even though these fish are used to heavy boat traffic, the late hours of the night are quiet and encourage tarpon to come near the surface to feed. It’s best to use a trolling motor to quietly move around. If you need to use an outboard, rely on a single engine running just above idle for the least disturbance. When the tide is flowing hard, it’s best to anchor yourself about 15 feet ahead of the light line. This allows you to cast the Hogy slightly up current and parallel to the bridge. During the retrieve the bait will slide right through the light line, where most tarpon will be feeding. As the tide slacks off, you may need to slowly motor along the length of the bridge to find fish. Move slowly and stay about 30′ – 40′ out of the light line. This will prevent you from spooking fish and give you a chance to properly present a bait.
Rigging Selection: When fishing large unweighted soft baits for tarpon, a single hook is preferred. The Hogy® 4/0 or 6/0 Soft Circle Hooks have an excellent hookup ratio for tarpon and allow the entire bait to freely swing in the current. The action of an unrestricted Hogy® Original is irresistible to tarpon.
Bait Selection: The Hogy® 7″ & 10″ Original Series Soft Baits.
Why this bait? The action and profile of Hogy’s Original Series accurately imitates ballyhoo, needlefish, ladyfish and small eels that are a favorite nighttime forage for bridge and channel tarpon.
Colors: Black has become my new favorite for night fishing. It works exceptionally well in well lit and totally dark areas. The black color creates a perfect silhouette that tarpon are tuned into feeding on.
Retrieve: As mentioned in the approach section, proper boat positioning is essential to successful tarpon fishing. The baits must be worked and retrieved naturally with the tide. You’ll need to cast your baits up current and parallel to light lines and bridge pilings. It may take some practice to determine the right spot to cast that allows your bait to drift into the lights just right. Once you find your swing, it won’t be long until a tarpon finds your well presented bait and eats it!
If you find that your baits are only fishing directly behind the boat, being dragged back by the current, there is a good chance you may not have any success. Take the time to quietly reposition your boat further up current of the light and allow yourself some more room to work the bait in the strike zone.
When working the soft baits at night, a slow, teasing retrieve works best. I like to use 2-3 twitches followed by a 3-5 second pause. Then use 1 sharp twitch and a one second pause. Mix up the number of twitches and length of pauses to determined what the fish want. Fast retrieves rarely work well at night, so keep it slow. If nothing seems to work, try dead sticking the bait, by steadily reeling in the slack line as the bait drifts with the current. Do not twitch the rod, the current will gently twitch the bait and give it enough action for finicky tarpon.
Rod: 8′ Heavy Fast Action Sewell Custom Hogy Soft Bait Rod
Reel: Shimano Sustain FG 10000
Line: 50lb Power Pro Slick
Leader: 60lb Fluorocarbon Leader, Tied line to line via spider hitch to worm knot. Use an offshore loop knot tying your leader to the hook.