Location: San Juan, Puerto Rico
Despite living 30 minutes away from the marina (sometimes an hour with Puerto Rican traffic), Capt. Tim doesn’t mind the winding trek from the mountains to the beaches. Located right next to the international airport are three big lagoons. The biggest one, San Jose, is roughly 3-miles long but between the three of them, it runs about 5-miles.
Known as the San Juan bay estuaries, or the San Juan lagoon system, massive Tarpon can be found rolling and feeding throughout the water column. Because the lagoons are dredged, this could be anywhere from 10-feet to 60-feet. There is one little inlet that connects to the ocean that feeds the Tarpon but other than the influx of bait, it’s all still, calm water.
Capt. Tim launches from a little canal that runs about 3-miles inland and it’s often filled with small Tarpon that he will occasionally stop and cast.The big tarpon are there year round and every day is another opportunity to hook a 100lb trophy but in the Spring (April, May and June) the numbers go up a lot and Capt. Tim often sees many more, which increases your chances of catching one. Still, there are some that never leave the point at all.
Unlike Florida, if you hook into a Tarpon, you are able to take it out of the water and snap a couple of pictures before safely releasing them. And if you’re looking for accommodations, Capt. Tim is eager and available to assist you in finding lodging and is able to answer any questions you may have about local activities and general questions about the island.
Tides: This are is relatively tide dependent but there are two other factors as well; the moon cycle and the rain. The tide just dictates what location you’re going to go to when you’ll find moving water and fish but during the rainy season, the lagoons flood with run-off water and streams from the mountains which pushes the bait out of their comfort zone and into the middle of the lagoons where the Tarpon are patiently waiting.
Tarpon hunt nocturnally and they tend to get aggressive in the middle of the night. During the full moon, the afternoon fishing trips will be the most effective. In terms of the tide, it’s similar to Tarpon fishing everywhere but down in Puerto Rico, the rain and the moon are always taken into consideration because they effect where you’re seeing fish and whether or not they’ll be feeding.
Although you’d think the water was Caribbean clear, it is often murky and clouded in the lagoons, with some places that look like a milkshake. On average, visibility is lost around the 4 to 5-foot mark.
Approach: The best way to find these fish is by cruising around and looking for rolling or feeding fish. You might have fish rolling on the surface or 20 to 25-feet down in the middle of the water column. In the Spring, they hang close to the surface.
If the water is moving in a tidal spot and they seem to be feeding on stuff getting flushed out, head back to the shallow water. If you don’t see fish rolling, pick up and go someplace else.
In the San Jose lagoon (the biggest of the three) frigates will come over from the ocean and circle on that lagoon. Capt. Tim often follows birds when working San Jose.
Another key sign to look for are the white birds that line the mangrove shoreline whenever bait fish are running. Snook and tarpon push the bait close to shore and you can often see the fish feeding instead of targeting random, rolling fish in the middle of the lagoons. Capt. Tim will often look for the white birds stacked on the shoreline where the predators are schooling.
Rigging/Lure Selection: 3.5” Hogy Pro Tail Paddles 1oz
Why This Bait? “These baits are what lead me to Hogy,” Capt. Tim said. “I never even fished or heard of Hogy until earlier this year.”
In the past, Capt. Tim has always liked using traditional, soft body jigs but clients were continuously losing fish because the hook size on these traditional jigs are made for snook and red fish and weren’t big enough for the Tarpon he targets.
“I wanted something that was a solid body and one piece of soft bait for durability,” Capt. Tim said. “That’s when I came across the videos and saw the products being used and realized that’s exactly what I was looking for.”
After buying a few and testing them out, Capt. Tim realized the Hogy Pro Tail Paddles were exactly what he had been looking for.
Not only do they actually work but they work the way they’re supposed to.
“I have caught up to 4 fish on the same Pro Tail without having to change it out,” Capt. Tim said. “The durability is impressive.”
He bought barbarian hooks as well because they don’t bend or flatten out like other traditional jig heads. He has so much inventory from the other soft baits that he was using and with the barbarian jig, he can rig them to be almost as durable as the Pro Tail Paddles.
Colors: Green and yellow have been doing really well for water deeper than 5-feet
Retrieve: A lot of it is done exactly the same way that Ross does it in Florida. Cast out and reel back slow and steady while implementing shore pauses and repeating.
Rod/Reel: Daiwa BG Saltwater Spinning Combo – 7’ Fast Action Rod paired with a 4000 or 5000 class reel
Line: Yo-Zuri 30lb braid (paired with a 4000 class reel) or 50lb (paired with a 5000 class reel)
Leader: Yo-Zuri 40-50lb fluorocarbon (paired with a 4000 class reel and 30lb braid) or 60 – 80lb (paired with a 5000 class reel and 50lb braid)