There are few things that compare in the world of saltwater fly fishing than hooking up with a big tarpon. Between the aerial acrobatics and aggression, tarpon is the pinnacle of game fish to many anglers. Even though big tarpon may supply enough adrenaline to last a lifetime, the younger ones still in adolescence shouldn’t be so quickly looked over.
In many ways, juvenile tarpon are just as fun, if not more, to feed and fight as the large ones. From the Yucatán Peninsula to the crystal-clear waters of Cuba, there is no shortage of incredible tarpon fly fishing destinations. For anglers looking to target juvenile tarpon specifically, some of our favorite destinations include:
- Campeche Tarpon (Mexico)
- Tarpon Cay Lodge (Mexico)
- Fly Fishing Tabasco (Mexico)
- Belize River Lodge (Belize)
If you’re traveling to one of these great destinations, be sure to have some of our staff’s favorite fly patterns to cast at the juveniles. And if you’re looking at purchasing some juvenile tarpon flies.
- Tarpon Toad – The Tarpon Toad is a staple for every tarpon box. The modern version of the tarpon toad was developed by Gary Merriman, owner of Atlanta’s Fish Hawk Fly Shop, in the 1990s and stayed a perpetual favorite for hungry juvenile tarpon.
- Cockroach – Developed by the legend Lefty Kreh, this classic fly has been thrown at tarpon worldwide. The cockroach is tied to imitate a shrimp or small baitfish. As the age-old adage goes- why change something that works?
- EP Mullet – Juvenile tarpon love small baitfish. As one of their primary food sources at an early age, a well-tied fly can land one of these adolescents. Enrico Puglisi’s Mullet is among one of the best patterns around.
- Doug McKnight’s Homeslice – Yellow Dog’s own Doug McKnight ties this deadly fly, and every size tarpon finds it irresistible. Ensure there are at least a couple of these in your saltwater box.
- Laid Up Tarpon – The Laid Up Tarpon Fly is a classic pattern great for wrangling in wary tarpon. It’s deadly for both cruising and laid-up tarpon alike.
- Everglades Gurgler – This shrimp imitation is deadly for juvenile tarpon. You’ll have a blast roping fish. Feel free to try whatever color combination you want; our favorite is black and purple.
- Tarpon Bunny – A great all-around fly that works in loads of situations. The long tail of the fly gives it tons of action in the water, and tarpon will find it incredibly enticing. The Tarpon Bunny should be easily accessible in everyone’s arsenal.
It should be noted that for the best baby tarpon, flies are generally tied on 1/0 hooks. Of course, that’s not a hard and fast rule, and there are always exceptions.
Everyone’s after the fish of a lifetime, but be sure you don’t overlook the fun of fishing for baby tarpon.
Ready to take a tarpon trip? Check out our tarpon fly fishing page.
- Fly Fishing for Giant Tarpon with Stu Apte
- The Best Tarpon Flies for Worldwide Angling
- 7 Must-Know Tarpon Fly Fishing Tips for Beginners
- Juvenile vs. Migratory Tarpon Fly Fishing Guide