Fly Fishing for Tarpon on South Padre Island
South Padre Island is not surrounded by the mystique of the Florida Keys, Homossasa or other famed tarpon fisheries. However, it is surrounded by tarpon. Those lucky enough to fish the waters which border this tiny sand spit from March through November can attest to this. The primary location for finding silver kings during their stay near South Padre is the Brazos Santiago Pass. This natural pass, which separates South Padre Island from Boca Chica Beach to the south, has been jettied and dredged to a depth of 35 feet. The depth certainly helps draw fish, but tarpon have been coming to this historic pass long before the first sand was sucked from the bottom and are likely to continue well into the future.
Regardless of why the tarpon congregate at this pass, the fact is they are here in fishable numbers and a wide range of sizes from March through November. During this time period, expert fly fishers and beginners alike stand a good chance at jumping and perhaps even landing a tarpon. Furthermore, since the fish here range in size from 10 to 200 pounds, practically every saltwater fly fisherman already has the necessary tackle and flies for getting into some sort of tarpon action on South Padre without a major expenditure.
Rods as light as an 8-weight, which is capable of landing fish up to about 30 pounds, can get anglers in the ballgame. The heavier the rod, the broader the range of fish an angler can reasonably expect to tangle with. Therefore, serious tarpon chasers are best served with 10 to 12-weight sticks. All rods should be mated with disc-drag reels loaded with intermediate fly line and at least 175 yards of backing. Fly selection is relatively simple as well. South Padre tarpon will readily gulp large Clousers, Deceivers, and Tarpon Bunnies.
This same equipment, provided you don’t mind getting it dunked in the brine, can be used in late summer to chase tarpon along the beachfront. From late July through mid-September, silver kings can be seen swimming in the guts running parallel to the beach. A four-wheel drive vehicle is handy to help keep up with the fast moving schools as they roam between the Brazos Santiago Pass on the southern end and the Mansfield Cut 27-miles north. Anglers without wheels can busy themselves casting to surf-run specks, Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, snook and pompano while waiting for schools of silver kings to pass through.
As the weather cools heading into fall, the fish retreat to the Pass, where they remain until the water temperature dips into the mid-60s, usually mid- to late-November, although fish have been caught into December during warmer years. This is the best time to catch true trophy tarpon, as triple-digit fish are heavily concentrated within the confines of the Pass.