Tarpon are elusive fish, especially in the Carolinas, where the Silver King doesn’t stick around for more than three or four months each year, preferring to spend their winters around Florida where temperatures stay more to their liking from fall through spring.
It’s not uncommon to hear anglers talk fondly of getting a tarpon to bite their lure or bait, even if they didn’t catch it. Statements like “Zero for 2 on tarpon this year!” are spoken proudly by those lucky enough to get a couple of tarpon to bite.
Capt. Addison Rupert of Lowcountry Outdoor Adventures in Charleston has defied all odds this year, catching multiple tarpon, and putting his clients on several as well.
By the middle of July, Rupert had seen a number of tarpon and had gotten a few to bite for his clients, but each of these ended in lost fish, which due to their sheer size and strength, is the norm.
On one trip early in June, Rupert had a close encounter with a tarpon when two of his friends, Harry McAdams and Will Stephenson, who were fishing onboard another boat, hooked a tarpon that tangled itself around Rupert’s anchor rope. That was the first South Carolina tarpon Rupert had touched with his hands in 2017.
But on July 18, the tide turned for Rupert, as he finally got to grab the lips of a tarpon on his own boat, which one of his repeat clients caught. Any time someone catches a tarpon in the Carolinas, they know it could be their last one for a long time, but for Rupert, it was just the beginning.
Rupert (843-557-3476), who is known throughout the lowcountry as one of the top bull redfish guides, has either caught or had his clients catch a total of nine tarpon in the past 8 weeks. That’s a statistic that most Carolina anglers will never see.
And Rupert’s not the only angler in the Carolinas having success with tarpon. Capt. Jot Owens of Jot It Down Charters in Wrightsville Beach has been jumping his share. One of the first ones he put a client on this year was a 130 pounder in June.
The tarpon have been biting various live baits and artificial lures, and Owens said the basic setup for tarpon fishing is essentially a large Carolina rig.
“The big tarpon came on one of my cobia rigs, which is an 8/0 Trokar circle hook, a 3 foot leader of 80-pound Berkley Big Game clear mono, a 50-pound swivel, and a 3-ounce egg sinker,” said Owens (910-233-4139).
Hilton Head’s Capt. Chip Micahlove, the “Shark Whisperer,” joined in the tarpon frenzy when he heard his neighbor had been wanting to catch one for a long time. After a tough day of catching very little bait, and with only one baitfish left in the boat, Michalove (843-290-0371) was ecstatic to watch his neighbor reel in a trophy tarpon.
The tarpon fishing is as hot as it’s going to get this year in the Carolinas, so don’t miss out on the chance to land one of these fish before they leave for the winter.