Tarpon are on the prowl in the Lowcountry, and the peak of the season is just turning the corner in the waters off Hilton Head, according to Capt. Brian Vaughn of Off the Hook Charters.
"We are catching some good tarpon, and I'd say we've still got several more weeks of a really strong tarpon bite," said Vaughn (843-298-4376).
The secret to finding tarpon, according to Vaughn, is finding current near sandbars, bridges or other structure.
"The two hours leading up to high tide have been best, but the two hours on either side of high or low tide are great for catching tarpon," said Vaughn, who said the SC 171 bridge across the Broad River has been a popular tarpon hangout, but they’ve been found in both deep and shallow water in the bays and other calm waters.
Vaughn has been catching tarpon on menhaden, both with and without a cork. Fishing with a Cajun Thunder cork, Vaughn uses a 5- to 6-foot leader of 100-pound monofilament under the cork, tied to a No. 7/0 or 8/0 tarpon hook baited with live or cut menhaden.
"I use a cork when the tarpon are cruising near the surface," he said.
Fishing along the bottom on Carolina rigs with a 6-foot, 100-pound monofilament leader is also working.
"Use either an egg sinker or pyramid sinker of various weights, depending on the current," said Vaughn, who recommends anchoring up before putting out baits.
Many anglers, Vaughn said, don't think about what he considers one of the most important steps to tarpon fishing.
"You definitely want to chum when fishing for tarpon," he said. "Whether using a chum bag or just tossing out cut bait to create a scent trail, chumming is something that you don't want to overlook."