How Trolling Motors Are Changing Tarpon Fishing

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

My first day of fishing tarpon with a trolling motor wasn’t what I’d expected.

I’ve been involved in several conversations on this topic in the past year. There are strong opinions on both sides but the fact is that each year there are more guides pursuing tarpon with trolling motors and it is definitely changing the game.

I do most of my tarpon fishing in the Keys. I like the fishing in the Keys for the same reason I like the Keys in general. Things are just a little slow to change down there. The Keys remind me of the Florida of my childhood, before theme parks and resorts, when Florida was ringed by sleepy beach towns and single-story motels.

While fishing the Keys today is far from the same experience it used to be, it’s still the kind of place where you can get lost in time. What I mean by that is that it’s the kind of place where, on a good day, you can pole a bank in quiet isolation and focus on the water and the fish. There are plenty of boats and anglers but there is still some etiquette among anglers. That’s disappeared in much of Florida.

_DSC5755It’s disappearing in the Keys too and if you spend any time at all drinking a beer with the flats guides down there, you hear about it. More and more you hear about trolling motors. Every year, new guides show up with electric motors mounted on their boats and every year more of the established guides give in and buy trolling motors of their own. I have heard a lot of talk about how it’s changing tarpon fishing but I never saw it until recently.

I fished Boca Grande for the first time recently. It was a very different experience than what I’m used to. I don’t want you to think I’m bashing the fishery or the guides there. It’s a beautiful place with tons of fish and great water. It’s just a very different culture than I’m used to, and it has to be. The pressure there is so intense that there’s no choice other than to throw the Keys-style etiquette out the window. If you don’t want to fish a flat with three other boats, it’s not the place for you. Guides there have been using trolling motors for some time now and it was a great chance for me to see what that really means.

How is fishing tarpon with a trolling motor different?

The trolling motor is really changing the way anglers target migrating fish. It used to be that when you were targeting schools of fish moving along the beach you would get in position and get a couple of shots at the school as they passed. Your guide would try to keep you on them as long as possible, but it’s hard to chase fish with a push pole. You got a couple of shots and you had to make them count.

It’s a very different game with the trolling motor. A guide with a motor can keep you on a school of fish indefinitely. It’s not uncommon to see two boats, often with two anglers per boat casting, hound a school of fish for thirty minutes. What that adds up to is an exponential increase in fishing pressure.

Fish who might have seen three or four casts from an angler, now see fifty. As anglers become fatigued and frustrated their presentations become poor and pretty soon they are banging flies on the heads of the fish. The fish see every pattern known to man with the worst possible presentations and they learn. Keep in mind that tarpon live upwards of eighty years and have very good memories. These fish are getting an education that will out live many anglers.

What’s a poor guide to do?

_DSC5690It’s a real conundrum for the guides. Most of them understand what’s happening but when a client goes out on a boat with a motor, they come back with the story, “We had a hundred shots!”  What they don’t realize is, they had five or six actual shots. The rest of the time they were just beating a dead fish, so to speak. Casting repeatedly to a school of fish who know what you’re up to is pointless. They hear and see that motor. They see you flailing away on the bow. You’re just making your arm sore.

Nevertheless, the story is that the client got a hundred shots and they will go out again with the guide who got them a hundred shots and no fish rather than the guide who got his clients four shots and a fish. Guides buy trolling motors because clients want them.

Please understand that I’m not demonizing anyone here. It is what it is. Genies do not go back into bottles  We are going to see more trolling motors on flats boats and tarpon fishing is going to get much harder, much faster. I guess you can feel that much better about it when you catch one.

The results of increased pressure

For whatever reason, the fishing we had in Boca Grande was very tough. A hundred things could have, and likely did, influence that but I’m convinced that much of it was due to the trolling motors. I mean no disrespect to the guides who use them but I didn’t care for it. After the first day, I found a guide with a push pole and we focused our efforts in the back country. There were fewer fish and we got fewer shots but we got quality shots.

There were six of us fishing for three days. In that three days there was one fish hooked and I hooked it, in the back country, without a trolling motor. I broke the fish off, because that seems to be what I’m doing lately, but my guide, Capt. Mark Becton, put me on a fish that was ready to eat by going old school and for that he gets my respect.

If you’ve got thoughts about tarpon fishing, we’d love to hear them. Please leave a comment.

 
Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
www.ginkandgasoline.com
hookups@ginkandgasoline.com
 
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34 thoughts on “How Trolling Motors Are Changing Tarpon Fishing

  1. Louis,

    Welcome to the world I lived at Boca Grande for some time now. I started tarpon fishing at Homosassa back in the day when you might see another boat from time to time. Boca Grande was an eye opener because it has so much less square mileage where you can find tarpon moving or laid up, especially along the beach where the tarpon head up and down the coast from the pass at Boca Grande. Almost from the jump there was a lot of pressure for fish just outside the pass and along the beaches not just from fly fishermen but gear and bait fishermen, many of whom did not have guides and knew no etiquette or cared less about it. Still, it has been a remarkable fishery, and I understood why the guides went to dual trolling motors on the stern. But the best guides anticipate the fish and run away from the beach when pursuing pods. But you may outrun pods from a distance and get set up for a shot only to have some yoyo pull in front of you between you and the approaching fish. So the back country provides some respite from the madness and an opportunity to find laid up fish as well as moving fish in water that is shallow enough to pole. But there are still boats running by in the channel and pressure from folks pursuing snook and redfish as well as tarpon. Like you said, it is what it is. My guide was, is and always has been terrific. He works his ass off trying to get you quality shots, changing flies, poling, and moving when needed. I guess you take the fishery as it comes and a quality guide is a quality guide. But the trolling motors are necessary as is the willingness to go old school when the situation dictates. The key is having the right guide who knows the difference and is willing to do the work. But isn’t that the case in every guided situation?

    I have tarpon fished the keys, and it was better back in the day, of course. My friends who still fish there have had a bad couple years, seeing less and less fish. There it’s more complicated than just pressure and too many boats.

    • I have fished Boca Grande since i was a child and i am in my 30’s now. I have to agree with everything Ralph said in his post. The fishery it self has been saturated with Guides and “PseudoGuides” that have “Tarpon Fever” and don’t care as long as they get a chance to hook up and they are willing to do whatever they feel isnecessary in order to do so.

      I was on the boat one day, standing on the bow, had my 10-weight in hand about to take my shot at a large group of migrating Tarpon, a boat came screaming up and stopped right between me on the and the fish, I asked the guy “what are you doing man? You drove right into my shot?” the guy(Guide?) responded, “F*ck you, that’s where the fish are, so that’s where we’re going.”

      I agree with you guys, the Keys is more my speed and style.

  2. Well, said Louis. This was my 24th year fishing the last week in May in the Keys. The attitude of the oceanside schools that we normally fish is most definitely changing.

    Not nearly as many floating, tailing, and slow-rolling “happy” schools of tarpon. A lot more schools that duck their heads and string out, even when you’re approaching quietly on the pole.

    Trolling motors on the bow of a poling skiff, manned by a capable guide, are poison to tarpon fishing. I have no problem calling it exactly what is:

    Laziness.

  3. Several years ago the Georgia DNR asked this question of local redfish guides, “What do you think has been the cause of the downturn in redfish numbers in Georgia, the primary thing?”. Every guide at that meeting agreed it was the use of trolling motors.A more efficient way to fish seldom improves a fishery.

  4. There are changes on-going in the Boca Grande Fishery. A couple years ago, several groups including Save the Tarpon and local Guides Association heavily protested tarpon tournaments including the PTTS, a show televised on TV in Florida. The FWC has changed the way you could deep jig for the tarpon in Boca Grande Pass. “Fishing with gear that has a weight attached to a hook, artificial fly or lure in such a way that the weight hangs lower than the hook when the line or leader is suspended vertically from the rod is prohibited.” Also you can only have 3 lines from a boat in the water at any one time, and cannot employ breakaway gear, snagging is prohibited. The tournaments have also changed the way they handle the fish, now leaving them in the water for measurement ( FWC rules now only allow tarpon < 40 in to be removed from the water for photos). The fact is that there is a shark fest when the tarpon are released here. As a rule, I never fish around other boats on the beach. Most of the time I will anchor with a ball so I can easily drop the line and retrieve after the fight. If I'm fishing in light winds with little current, I will sometimes use the trolling motor or push pole just to position the client for a better shot at oncoming fish. I will never chase fish with a trolling motor or boat motor on the Beach. The only exception is Charlotte Harbor as the fish will remain in a school moving usually in the deeper holes. Overall, the Beach & Harbor fishery has diminished, even since the time I started fishing it in 2004. The same could also be said of other kinds of targeted local species. It's probably a combination of fishing pressure, pollution, and possible bait migration. I urge everyone to join the Tarpon and Bonefish Trust who want to save this fishery for years to come.

  5. Was in the Keys in late April this year. Second day, our guide found a TON of rollers swimming against the current of a submerged channel. He just jammed the pole in the sand, tied off and we would just wait the fish out, throw a 70 footer and just let it swing into position like swinging meat for trout.

    Another boat about 150 yards down current motored across the channel and then basically would chase the fish parallel to the channel with their caster ripping off casts like crazy. That boat never hooked up. by the time the boat got across from us I had already jumped two on 6 shots. They had thrown probably 20-30 casts.

    We were in a kick ass position to intercept these moving tarpon with us generating zero noise. I jumped my third one of the morning shortly after that boat left hooking it just 30 feet off the bow. I don’t think we would have had that many quality shots if we were moving with the fish.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love trolling motors, especially when Muskie fishing, just because fishing Muskie is about covering good water. A trolling motor will get you more follows at the very least, but with Tarpon, I think you have a much better shot at them when you take the time to get in a good position before launching a line.

    The only time I think that a trolling motor may have helped was when we were fishing deeper water in a changing tide off Marquesas. Those fish came up on us fast and were gone quick, and we got maybe 5 good shots hooking up on one (solid fish though, would have been one of my biggest if I didn’t break it off like a dumbass). The motor might have allowed us to reposition on fish faster. My guide as working his ass off on the pole but they were moving so quick there was just no way to keep up.

  6. I took my Towee to the Keys for the first time this year. I didn’t expect much success, and din’t find much but I still had a blast. I still felt like I was living the dream, my own skiff in the keys doing things my own way and figuring it out for myself. Every morning I saw a pair of guides set up on a tarpon spot I could see from the porch of my rental unit. I could’ve beaten them to that spot every morning. But I chose to let them do their thing and I never went over there. I don’t get anything but a pat on the back from myself, but I feel better about it. These guys weren’t using trolling motors.

    You are absolutely right, eventually those fish will stop eating flies. I was astounded at how much traffic and pressure the keys are getting every day. I was in the middle keys. The sleepy funky vibe the keys used to have is slowly giving way to the glitzy big time homes and boats with 1200 horse power of outboards. There’s a macho results based attitude that comes with all of that as well. It’s less about the experience and more about the result. This wall street consultant attitude says that numbers produce results. In business that is true and I think that same thinking is going into their fishing. Sadly though you can’t equate shots at tarpon to websites clicks and when you do you run the risk of ruining it for everyone.

  7. Capt. Mark Becton’s name caught my attention in this article.. I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to fish BG since I was a small kid, caught my first poon back in the early 80’s in the Pass when I was 11 years old drifting over the hole with a crab. Back in the 90’s things went south in the Pass with all the exposure “Boca Grande Tarpon Fishing” got. The jig took over, as well as many new faces who had no respect for the ways the Pass was fished. It was ruined in my opinion.
    I met Capt. Mark Becton 17 years ago and we mapped out a strategy to go after the fish running the beaches. For the first few years we had so many great trips. We would land four to five fish each time we went out. The last few years have been different. Now, the beaches are slammed with “boat hunter guides” who come running up on anybody who is working fish. Capt. Mark, after all these years still works his ass off to find the fish. He has to work harder than ever with the way things are now. I still love fishing BG, but can’t help the feeling of wanting the good ‘ol days back..

  8. I have never fished for Tarpon. I have never even casted a fly into salt. How does a guide who, when fishing by themselves become the most experienced angler they can be if they are staking out spots and waiting for fish? Or…doing the dance between poling and casting? Should salt guides not use trolling motors when fishing by themselves? If they are allowed to, how do you decide when to draw line? I think it has been acknowledged you get way more opportunities to cast to a fish when using a trolling motor, doesn’t that mean more experience and likely a better angler? Is it the trolling motors that are the problems or is it the people with no fishing etiquette who use them the problem? Or..is it the amount of people chasing the same population of fish? I think there are more factors at play here and demonizing trolling motors seems unreasonable. What is it sounds like is being said is that because there are so many people chasing the same fish, each person should have fewer chances because you basically are sharing the fish. I think maybe instead of going to Boca Grande or some other highly pressured fishery, we should do the fish a favor and go to places with less fishing pressure.

      • Sounds to me like quality anglers and guides are adopting these tools as a way to adapt to a changing fishery. And a**holes are a**holes.

      • Spencer,

        I don’t claim to be an expert by any means, but as Louis mentioned, success catching tarpon depends upon quality presentations and shots at “bitey” fish. Fish that are harassed by being chased with motors and poor presentations tend to “turn off” so to speak. As Louis also mentioned, more shitty presentations does not result in more hook ups, just better educated fish. Its been my experience in the Keys that not all tarpon on any given day, even with the best of casts and presentations, will bite. At the end of the day, IMO it comes down to etiquette, knowing the spots/positions, and how to properly fish them. In many places tarpon “flow” from point A to B, sliding through an area that has a depth that makes them feel comfortable. Proper positioning (which seems to be a bit subjective in some cases) in these areas allows the guy at the top of the flow to take a shot before the fish move past. People who chase fish in these situations rather than staying put fuck up the flow for the next guy and that’s not cool. The good thing is that most of the guides won’t hesitate to “educate” someone/ each other when someone is blowing it. I certainly understand the desire to pursue a game fish unguided, trying to crack the code and figure it out on your own, but you have to play by the rules. While it is certainly expensive, getting a good guide is a great way to learn a lot about this game and how to play it respectfully.

        • JD, you said it,

          “At the end of the day, IMO it comes down to etiquette, knowing the spots/positions, and how to properly fish them.”

          The Keys sound like a really busy place with a lot of fishing pressure. It really does not sound like a place I want to go, no offense. My idea of fishing is adventure and exploration. I want to cast to fish that have never seen a person or a boat before and in the Great Lakes I can do that daily. I can fish spots that may have never been fished before. I pursue shallow water species in the middle of a fishing culture that is traditionally a deep species targeting culture (walleye, perch, lake trout). So when I get up in the corner of some super shallow bay of Lake Huron on Lake Michigan, there is a chance no one has ever casted a fly or lure there before and I would be really disappointed if I saw another fishing boat within a mile of me. Thanks for informing me on what it is like down there. Have a good day, friends.

  9. Diclosure: I am a Lower Keys Guide who strongly opposes the use of trolling motors that are used to “follow”‘, “chase” “troll in front of” or “get into position” while Tarpon fishing. I have personally witnessed the negative effect they are having on our migratory fish as well as our fish in the back country.

    I continue to watch guides and recreational anglers misuse trolling motors by motoring down on fish that would normally be out of range and left alone if they were on the pole. They fire up the trolling motors and speed towards the oncoming strings, bow crashing, motors humming. They began flailing away as the string passes and then they proceed to “follow” the string (as discribbed in the article above) flailing away at fish that certainly aren’t going to eat. The amount of pressure unleashed on these fish by boat and angler are destroying our fishery. The next boat 300 yards+ down the line doesn’t stand a chance in hell at hooking one of these fish. Often times these strings are pushed well off their original line and head out to deep water. Can you blame them?

    Two weeks ago I watched a well known, extreamly good guide (a guide I used to respect) trolling around a slicked out back country basin at 6:30 am fishing to laid up and cruising fish. And we wonder why we hear more people saying they see fewer laid up and rolling fish in the back country basins…..SMH.

    If you care about our tarpon fishing you will NOT use a trolling motor to fish tarpon, bonefish and permit after arriving on your flat or oceanside spot. If you are an able bodied angler (those without shoulder injuries or some physical condition that prevents you from polling) there is no excuse for you to be using a trolling motor while fishing. Get on the pole and push the flats….that push pole is for pushing, it’s not a rudder.

    I challenge someone to present a solid argument that shows using a trolling motor has less of an impact on our fish than a guy pushing the flats on the pole.

  10. “I think maybe instead of going to Boca Grande or some other highly pressured fishery, we should do the fish a favor and go to places with less fishing pressure.”

    I’d love to know where that is for tarpon. Been looking for it for 35 years.

    • Pick a different species. Is the circus of a highly pressured fishery what you want your fly fishing experience to be? Come on..think creatively instead of just…”well, Tarpon is the only thing I am going to fish for..” It’s the ocean…pick a different species. Try.

      • Hey Spencer – I spend lots of time fishing other fish species in quiet places where there’s very little pressure. But here’s the deal: I really REALLY like fishing for tarpon. It’s my favorite thing to do and Ive been doing it for a lot of years and I’ve seen the Keys fishery degrade in recent years due to exactly what Louis and others describe

        So at this point I could continue to rant about trolling motors at the risk of sounding like an old man yelling at kids to get out of his yard, but I’m not gonna do that. Instead, I’d like to ask you about your favorite fish and perhaps a piece of water that your very fond of.

        I look forward to your reply. .

        • Tosh, I really appreciate you tone. In regards, to your first paragraph. I have so much respect for fish and all animals that I would forgo my own, no offense, selfish desires and not fish for highly pressured fish. It’s not even fun for me.

          In regards to your second paragraph, I responded to JD describing where I like to fish, ideally. You should glance at that. But I live in northern michigan at the tip of the lower peninsula and I have not one, but two Great Lakes within a half hour of my driveway and every other type of body of water available as well, besides salt.

          My favorite fish is the Smallmouth Bass. Where I live the fishing opportunities for them are endless. They get relatively big. They fight hard and they can be very aggressive. It’s very sporty. One of my favorite spots is Burt Lake, where I live. It is a trophy game not a numbers game. The predator-prey ratio is way out of wack so big predators of different species come out of this lake, 6 and a half pound smallmouth or a 54 pound musky. But even here there is a substantial amount of pressure. I really enjoy Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. For some reason, the bass anglers in this state don’t think much about the northern areas of those two lakes. It’s wild and fishing pressure doesn’t exist. I can go out there and catch big beautiful smallmouth and not encounter another fisherman.

          • Okay, so you like Great Lakes smallmouth, and you’ve got some spots that see very little pressure.

            So what if I was to show up there someday with an attitude and means of fishing that completely ruined that fishery.

            My guess is that you’d take offense. And what if I then responded with…

            “Pick a different species. Is the circus of a highly pressured fishery what you want your fly fishing experience to be? Come on..think creatively instead of just…”well, [smallmouth] is the only thing I am going to fish for..” It’s the [Great Lakes]…pick a different species. Try.”

            Think before you type, Spencer

        • ….and Tosh, I have been making a bunch of videos recently. You can see exactly where and how I fish. Click on my name and then click on the Youtube symbol.

          • Wow, that took a left turn. I thought we were having a friendly conversation. Don’t be offended cause your spots get pounded. That sucks..for you.

  11. I guided in the keys for many years and saw the writing on the wall. Bonefish were most serious guides bread and butter and I witnessed their decline. A serious decline.
    I was amazed when a day of fishing success went from the number of fish caught to the number of “shots” a guide got a client.

    Tarpon fishing held up better than many expected, but friends still shoving a boat around for a living tell me it’s a shadow of its former glory.

    I’m not surprised in the least that trolling motors are coming into use. The new guys are way too “special” to believe in sweating on the job. And I’m sure they manage to convince their clients that fish who have had the crap beat out of them will still bite.

    There were a bunch of goobers guiding out of Ocean Reef who used to chase Tarpon schools for MILES in their skiffs. They’d set up in front of them, let their clients flail away, then crank up, loop around them and do it all over again. These turds even had a term for it, they were “cowboying” the Tarpon. I bet every one of them has at least one trolling motor on his boat now..

    Getting a guide license in Florida is absurdly easy, so easy that many “guides” come in from all over the country just for the season. Since they don’t live there full-time, they really have no stake in the health of the resource. And it shows.

    When the Tarpon finally have had enough, and move their migration passage far off shore, these clowns won’t give a damn. They’ll just find another area to hammer.

  12. I am also a guide in the lower keys that has witnessed the impact of anglers/guides using trolling motors and Don Gable is spot on with his description of the impact on the fishery. Trolling motors take the sport out of flats fishing as well as the team work between angler and guide that builds the relationships that make the business what it is.. It will eventually get to the point where the fish are migrating offshore and sight fishing will be a thing of the past if this continues. If you are in able to pole a boat and have to depend on a trolling motor to catch fish then there are plenty of extremely hard working guys that will be happy to pole you into fish that will eat opposed to beating dead horses. There are plenty of guides that work 100 times harder than any trolling motor could and they can give you much better angles and opportunities than someone chasing a string of fish for a 1/2 mile casting 90* on every shot. For those of us who are behind these guys chasing fish we continusly see the fish being pushed outside of routes that would be taken by fish that aren’t being pressured with the vibration of a trolling motor.
    It boils down to people being lazy and not wanting to earn their opportunities for shots. I will take one eat over 100 shots any day.

  13. Mark is a good friend of mine and a great guide. glad you gave him the thumbs up.
    He works hard. I am also 1 of the very few in boca who never uses a trolling motor.
    Its hard work but i believe in the way we fish!

  14. i know nothing of tarpon.

    But bear with me…

    I know places where people have to hike/ climb miles to fish. There are no roads or helicopter pads. You have to sweat and backpack. Sure some can take a horse, but that only gets one so far (waterfalls, etal). So you get my point: The fishing is great, spawning is great- Bc no self centered ass hat is fishing the spawn Bc the trail has too much snowpack. The fish rise to the fly so aggressively that the expirience is worth the physical hike. The fish do not have hook scares all over their mouths…it’s great.

    Sadly other places right down the road are tourist-ized, over fished. 90% of the day the fish hide- they are skinny, some unhealthy, and the numbers suck, even with a hatchery….

    I have seen many great fishing places become sh*t.

    I guess my point is that, humans tend to screw up a good thing, fishing should require work, and should require restraint and respect.

  15. Very interesting read, Louis! Our guides in Cuba have been given trolling motors to fish the tidal channels in the north, which is by far the most prolific tarpon ground on the island. The keys are literally just a stone cast away – less fishing pressure though. I was quite stunned when I returned in September just to find all the motors were gone… un-mounted by the guides. The head guide told me “the fish don’t like them” so they went back to wooden paddles in the channels.

  16. I think trolling motors are changing tarpon fisheries. Without a doubt. Both guides and private anglers are using them irresponsibly and the fish are adapting. But before we rattle our pitchforks and torches at trolling motors, shouldn’t we acknowledge that they are simply the latest advancement in a long line that have made anglers more effective at hooking and catching tarpon? Polarized glasses, fluorocarbon leaders, and fast action rods are just a few advancements that have increased people’s chances catching tarpon. What about “wristwatches” that are actually GPS’s? Google Earth? Message boards and social media?

    Everyone is quick to reminisce about the “old school” or the “good old days.” I’m sure A.W. Dimmock lamented the days when he was no longer able to free gaff tarpon from his canoe in Boca Grande in the early 1900’s. Every guide remembers when there were less boats and more fish. Everyone remembers when fishermen appreciated the sunrise or an approaching storm for its beauty and shook hands after grabbing a fish and shared a beer on the dock after a long day. Now guys feel the insatiable need to document each fish hooked or caught on a variety of social media platforms and completely feel defeated if they were unable to upload a picture of them holding a fish’s face. All of these factors are changing the tarpon fishing landscape and deserve as much of an address as trolling motors.

    We all have to laugh about the irony of writing about the “old school” on our personal computers and reading articles like this on our smartphones. I’m glad I didn’t have to get out my ink well and quill pen to draft this response in the light of a whale-oil lamp upon the lead-painted windowsill in the dying light of the evening!

    How old school should we go? Morse code? Guttenberg’s press? Smoke signals? I’m not sure. Great article, Louis. I hope we can all enjoy tarpon fishing for years to come. They still want to eat and we still want to feed them!

  17. It’s really interesting how the fish can be so intuitive to different techniques. The sport is constantly changing and it honestly just makes it more exciting. Thanks for sharing!

  18. In close to 30 years of full time guiding out of Islamorada and fly fishing for tarpon I can’t say that I have ever seen anyone use a trolling motor irresponsibly, except one well know guide with a TV show many years ago; he was reprimanded. There is no question that our tarpon fishing and our fishery in general has changed over the years. However I haven’t noticed any change in the behavior of the tarpon that I can attribute solely to the use of trolling motors. This is not to say that we don’t have other issues bothering the tarpon such as environmental impact, fishing pressure in general, pleasure boat traffic, etc.

    Most Florida Keys guides like myself who specialize in fly fishing would have a hard time witnessing some of the methods that have been and are still are being used at Boca Grande and other locations throughout Florida. This is not a newsflash however, it’s been going on as long as I can remember.

    I can’t speak for the Lower Keys but we don’t chase or “hound” tarpon in the Islamorada area; most of us know better. When we’re not poling our skiffs and hunting for tarpon in Florida Bay or the Gulf, we “set up” on them – on the oceanside or on migration paths bayside. Our established etiquette and common sense won’t allow for chasing, casting and tailwhipping tarpon while using our preferred method of propulsion – a push pole. Of course we’re not immune and stupid things do happen on the water during tarpon season. Honest mistakes as well as some aggressive and thoughtless moves are made by guides and private angler’s alike but they’re rarely overlooked without confrontation on the spot or later back at the dock.

    The author writes “It’s a real conundrum for the poor guides most of them understand what’s happening.” “Guides buy trolling motors because clients want them.” I’ve never had a client ask me nor have any of my guide friends ever mentioned that their anglers wanted them to buy a trolling motor so they could get a hundred shots by whacking the same school of fish for thirty minutes.

    I bought a trolling motor last year for the larger of my two skiffs; nobody asked me to buy one and “giving in” is not part of my vocabulary or any guide I know and respect. I do “disrespect” the guides who use them in the manner in which the author is taking about. None of my clients or any experienced tarpon anglers that I know would put up with that method of fishing. For the Keys Guides who specialize in fly fishing and sight fishing in general, poling our skiffs all day long is not unique, old school, outstanding, exceptional or even respected… it’s normal, it’s expected, it’s what we do and the most effective way to do it.

    Trolling motors these days have some great features such as remote control and the capability to hover, incorporating GPS… used responsibly they are a great tool in my opinion but only in conditions where it’s simply impossible to pole. I use my trolling motor while tarpon fishing on rare occasions when it’s too deep or too rough and windy to pole… hovering or ‘holding position’ while waiting for migratory fish as an alternative to staking out, anchoring or not even leaving the dock in excessive wind. Always with consideration and respect to anyone who may be fishing near me.

    The trolling motor is not the problem… like many things, it’s the operator.

  19. f trolling motors for tarpon If you’ve never fished for them here with an experienced guide or amateur who poles you don’t get it. These are not small mouth bass on some northern lake. The sound of the motors changes their behavior. We’ve witnessed this for decades. Learn to pole or ball up and wait but ditch the friggin motorguides

    • Why don’t Tarpon jet off when spooked, like every other species I have encountered..while using my trolling motor. Are they dumb? Are they assholes? Assholes chasing assholes. What a joke. You guys are so conditioned to a highly pressured fishery, you’ll blame your lack of catching on anything besides actual fishing.

      • Bottom line….there’s a time and place for a trolling motor. It’s NOT on the oceanside in water shallow enough to pole, it’s NOT on a permit flat and it’s NOT in a backcountry basin in shallow, slicked out water.

        Simply put…trolling motors belong in water that’s too deep to pole. If your a single (able bodied) angler looking to fish the flats or oceanside migrating tarpon..Find a damn friend and/or get on the pole.

        Again…I challenge anyone to make a valid case that shows trolling motors don’t have a negative effect on our already negatively impacted fisheries. This talk about how trolling motors don’t affect the fish is complete, utter BS.

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