The Georgia coast is a labyrinth of small estuarine creeks and rivers meandering for hundreds of miles under the bright southern sun. For some, it looks like an endless field of grass, but for those who know, it holds ancient giants.
June heralds the arrival of Megalops atlanticus, better known as the Tarpon or Silver King. Their arrival is anticipated by a few hardy anglers who have an addiction that cannot easily be explained.
Unlike Florida fisheries, which get intense fishing pressure, the Georgia coast is relatively quiet and unspoiled. The mainland is protected by 90 miles of barrier islands, all but three of which are protected and have remained wild for the past 100 years or more.
Natural beauty is abundant—tropical palm trees sway in the gentle breeze, Spanish moss drips off massive 300-year-old live oaks, and huge loblolly pines soar into the sky. This special place is also home to bottlenose dolphins, loggerhead sea turtles, and bald eagles.
But for those of us with a certain addiction, the majestic beauty of the Silver King surpasses all the beauty of the coast. Georgia’s migratory population of tarpon, which can weigh more than 200 pounds, begin to arrive in June and stay through September.
Fishing for these monsters is an extremely addictive sport. When you see a 150-pound giant take your bait and then jump more than 10 feet into the air, your heart stops beating—until you are reminded to start breathing again because your arms hurt as this beast decides to move to the next county with only you and your tackle stopping it.
Most Georgia anglers follow a morning ritual along the Georgia backwaters to get the live bait they need for the day. They throw cast nests over huge schools of menhaden and fill their live wells and buckets with this bait in anticipation of hooking up with one of these ancient creatures.
Tackle selection is a key factor in success. Rods in the 30–80-pound class and spinning reels in the 6000–8000 class are typical gear. Line weights should be 30–40 pounds (main line) with 60–100-pound leader and hooks from 6/0–10/0. Using a float keeps the menhaden in the upper water column, and 6–8-ounce weights keep those baits on the bottom, for those tarpon that are cruising deep.
Once your gear is set, you find you a good spot to anchor up the boat and deploy the baits. Once hooked, these giants perform amazing acrobatic jumps over and over again, testing anglers and their gear.
These fights can take 30 minutes or three hours—the results are a story of a lifetime and a great photo opportunity before the fish is released to fight again another day.
If you are ready to take in all the beauty of the Georgia coast, give us a call. Be sure to bring lots of sunscreen and water and get ready to do battle with a fish that hasn’t changed in millions of years.
It’s called the Silver King for a reason—bow to the king! Tight Lines.