Tarpon Fishing British Virgin Islands

So you think you would like to do a bit of Tarpon Fishing on your Charter yacht?

Fortunately, when we did yacht charters, my husband was a keen fisherman and had success with Tarpon. I coopted him into writing his knowledge on deep-sea fishing, fly fishing, and bottom fishing for several blog entries.

Where Can I find Tarpon in the British Virgin Islands?

West end on Tortola, Marina Cay, North Sound, Sandy Spit, and both Great Harbors at Peter Island and Jost Van Dyke are all great places for tarpon at night time from a charter boat.

You need to light up the boat brightly to attract the silversides.

Tarpon is a fantastic catch and release sports fish. These prehistoric-looking fish will leap out of the water and shake free the hooks of all but the best angler. They are a fish with perfect eyesight and therefore are not easy to fool into taking a bait.

My first Tarpon in the BVI took me several years to catch, but since learning the secrets, I can now snag one or two every time I fish for them.

Tarpon Fishing British Virgin Islands Charter Yachts

What do Tarpon eat in the BVI?

The tarpon here eats silverside (except in Great Harbor at Jost Van Dyke where they eat the 3 inch long sprats). An average silverside is less than 2 inches long.

In order to present your silverside in amongst the hundreds of other silversides that the tarpon has to choose from, you need to fish with gear that most would think that you would have no chance of landing such a beautiful sports fish with.

What kind of gear should I use to catch Tarpon Fishing British Virgin Island?

I usually use about a 15-pound line, the last couple of feet I double the line, so I have 2 x 15-pound line. Then I snood a tiny #6 or #8 hook to the end of the double.

Use good quality hooks that have relatively thick steel. Suicide types generally are the thickest. Red hooks are best. Use either a small net or something like a pasta strainer, catch yourself some silverside for bait.

How do I collect Silversides for bait?

With bright lights on the boat, this is an easy task as they will come into the lights and hang around on the surface.

Just use a fast scooping motion from the silversides head towards its tail, as the net hits the water, they spook and swim towards the net before ultimately turning away.

You can keep some alive in a bucket of water, and it keeps the kids amused.

A funny thing is that you can let the kids continue splashing about, catching silverside while you are tarpon fishing. It doesn’t seem to alarm them at all.

Fishing in the British Virgin Islands, reels over the back deck bar on One Net
Fishing in the British Virgin Islands, reels over the back deck bar on One Net

How do I hook the silverside?

Hook the silverside by passing the hook into one eyeball and out the other, this presents them well in the water, and they will stay alive on the hook.

Let the bait float down into the water and drift around. If there is little wind, I do not use any weight on the line, just let it float around if its windy, a small weight may be needed to stop the line from flying around like a kite.

Use small split shot crimped to the line say 5 feet above the hook as this will allow the bait to drift around and not look stiff in the water.

What is the method for catching Tarpon?

When you see the tarpon cruising around under the boat in the lights, you will notice them circle in and out of the light and going through the baitfish slowly and not attempting to catch any. Out of the blue, they will streak through the bait, taking them by surprise, gulping down a mouth full of silverside.

Try to fish your bait about 10 feet deeper than the depth the tarpon is cruising. The aim is to have the tarpon look down at the bait instead of up at the bait. This helps not to let them see the hook.

When are Tarpon most active?

They feed most heavily when they first show up, straight after dark. Make sure you light up your boat as the sun sets to get things started.

It’s a sort of “He with the brightest lights attract the most tarpon” type of thing.

When you get a bite, remember that you are only going to lip hook it, don’t go crazy or you will tear it out of its lip.

How do I keep the Tarpon on the line?

When Tarpon know they are hooked, they are going to take off at a blistering pace.  If he is heading away from you into clear water, I loosen the drag a bit and let him go.

It’s far safer to let him work and tire out away from the danger of the boat and anchor line.

As he takes off, you must point the tip of your pole straight up. Watch the line angle, he will be heading to the surface and will leap into the air 5 feet, while shaking his head like crazy.

The instant he breaks the surface, it’s imperative that the pole tip is up and that you crank the line like crazy. Any slack in the line for even a millisecond while he is leaping, it will throw the hook.

If you have survived this far, let him keep working while away from the boat to tire him out.

Tarpon at Muskmelon
Tarpon and Silversides under the water

How do I land the Tarpon?

Keep an eye on the line angle as he may take a half-dozen leaps out of the water. If he gets slackline on any of his jumps, he will throw the hook.

When he has tired some (if 10 to 15 minutes haven’t passed, he is not tired yet) start bringing him back in.

They are magnificent fish, so you do not want to gaff or harm him, so you need him to be dead tired before you try to boat him.

When he sees the boat, he will probably take off again, but with patience, you will bring him back.

Tarpon has extremely tiny teeth. We usually put a glove on the one hand and try to put four fingers into his mouth and thumb under the jaw, then with the not gloved hand, we slip our fingers into its gill opening and lift him out of the water.

Remove the hook, get some pictures then slip him back into the water.

I have always been a light gear nut (opens in a new browser, BVI on the FLY, another blog entry on fishing) and tried for ten years to get a 20 to 1 tarpon caught. With a good quality bait-caster spooled with 4-pound spider-wire, I caught dozens and dozens of tarpon on that rig, many into the 70-pound range but the 80 pounders alluded me.

With only 4-pound gear, the outcome was always the same.

Upon being hooked, they would take off and leap a couple of times trying to throw the hook; then, they would come back to the boat and continue feeding in the lights like they were not hooked at all.

The smiles on their faces say it all

Using Light Gear on Tarpon

With such light gear, it was not possible to put enough pressure on them to either upset them, to get them to run and tire themselves out, or tire them out with the added strain of swimming with so little resistance against them.

One night I had a tarpon one for 3 hours before I gave up and snapped him off. My latest catch in the summer of 2019 was at Little Harbour at Peter Island ( an unusual place for me to hook tarpon).

It was on 10lb gear, and the tarpon was about 70 lbs.

If you are thinking about tarpon fishing British Virgin Islands Charter Yachts give it a whirl, it is a lot of fun for everyone.

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