Tarpon in the Freshwater Creeks and Lagoons
By David Little
Tarpon, or more correctly, the Ox-eye herring is just about ubiquitous in freshwater creeks and lagoons right throughout the north, and Townsville is no exception.
These feisty little fish are, in my opinion, highly underrated targets for the tropical fly fisherman. While more aggressive in the warmer months, the tarpon will take flies all year round in the right conditions. Growing to as large as approximately 70cm and 3 to 4 kg, our “tarpon” is much more commonly caught in sizes less than 0.5kg and anything over a kilogram is considered a good catch.
Some days you’ll find the local lagoons and creeks literally boiling with ox-eye as you arrive, and these can be both some of the most productive and frustrating fishing you’ll come across. More often than not the tarpon eagerly swipe at flies placed within their path be they surface or sub-surface offerings, but their hard mouths and flighty nature can make them notoriously difficult to stay connected to.
Everyone has their favourite flies and techniques for targeting these fish. Myself, in the wet season I just can’t get enough of the rush of boiling tarpon leaping from the depths of a small lagoon to eat small gurglers and poppers, and more recently my “poor” cicada imitations. When they aren’t so eager to feed off the surface I switch to crazy charlies, clouser minnows, mini-“things” and even deceivers in size 6 to entice the eat. My retrieves are fairly standard, short sharp strips with plenty of pauses whether fishing on top of or below the surface.
Being a typically small fish I enjoy chasing tarpon on lighter rods, particularly 4wts, but anything less than a 6wt is heaps of fun, and some of the larger specimens will put a very nice bend in a 9wt!
The tarpon is just one of those fish.... When the creeks are flowing hard and pumping dirty brown fresh into the bay some days they are the only, and best option to get into a few. Next time you drive past a new piece of freshwater, slow down and have a look, you’ll be surprised what you might see....
There’s a reason Ward always has his 5wt ready to go!