June 19, 2010 – fishing but not catching

I just returned from a few days tarpon and snook fishing on the San Juan river in Nicaragua.  It was all fishing and almost no catching.  We did manage one 15 pound snook but the tarpon would not cooperate. We saw dozens of big tarpon every day but they just wouldn’t bite.

This lodge is not a place you go expecting to catch 10 fish a day.  If you get 2 or 3 bites and get one or two to the boat you have had a good day.  You may catch fewer fish here but they are big, powerful fish that will test your angling skills and equipment.  My goal is a 200 pounder and this area is my closest and best spot to get a fish that big.

99% of the tarpon caught up here are caught on Rapala type lures. These lures with duel treble hooks are the only thing that the tarpon will bite on but trying to safely release a upset 150 pound tarpon is not so easy with all those treble hooks.  The tarpon needs to be really worn out before you can get the lure out and all those treble hooks are very dangerous for the person releasing the fish.

I decided after my first trip up here that it would best to catch tarpon on a circle hook.  If you could catch tarpon on the circle hook you would never have to handle the fish.  You could fight the fish to the leader and then just cut the line as close to the hook as possible with a release stick.  The fish would not be worn out and it would be much safer for the person releasing the fish.

The problem is getting the tarpon to bite.  They seem to be tuned into the Rapala type bait and motion.  What would they bite on that I could rig with circle hook?

I tried small bally hoo the last time and that didn’t work.  This time I experimented with a soft bodies shad bait with J hook and head weight molded inside the soft plastic.  These soft body shad when trolled have action similar to that of the Rapala.

I modified the shad body by cutting off the exposed part of the J hook and I used floss to tie a circle hook to the eyelet of the bait.  It looked great and when I tested it on the beach in front of my house it swam great and had a good wobble…a wobble similar to a Rapala.  Would it work on the river for big tarpon?

I got my answer the first day when an 80 pound tarpon smashed my bait, flew 5 feet out of the water but did not come tight.  Even though I did not hook the fish it was a victory for my circle hook rig…it proved that something other than a Rapala will work.  It proved that it is possible to catch tarpon up there on the circle hook.

The numbers were in my favor this trip.  We trolled 2 Rapalas and 1 of my soft body shad with circle hooks at all times.  The 2 Rapalas ended the trip with 2 good bites but 0 hook ups.  My 1 soft body bait ended the trip with 2 good bites but 0 hook ups.

My goal is to change the way they sport fish for tarpon up there.  Treble hooks and fighting a fish to near death before releasing are not good for tarpon.  This is a beautiful area with big powerful fish and it needs to be preserved.

I am doing laundry, watching golf and getting caught up on emails today.  I should have a local fishing report by the end of the day.

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