Tackle and Tactics
Mike Ladle

Information Page.

Fishing in Tobago again.

When I wrote the last piece on Tobago I hadn't been able to download the pictures sent by Boris - so here they are. I've repeated the text of his letter for completeness.

Hi Mike,

I spent another one-week holiday with 2 fishing pals (this time fishing only) in Tobago. I came back about 3 weeks ago. In the last few days I found some time to write about our experiences... So, as usual, no good English but hopefully readable for you in all it's meanings.

On our last stay in April, we saw only "a handfull" of tarpon hanging around. So we hoped in advance that this time (rainy season) there would be plenty of the giant "herrings". What a fallacy! There were again only very few tarpon (that we could see) at the favoured places. I think the main reason was the absence of bait fish. There were so few sprats available around the island, that some fishermen (live-bait fishers) quit going out. At the jetties was the only place we could catch sprats on some days in reasonable sizes and numbers with our cast net.

Back to our fishing. We fished every dusk and dawn except one day when we went out with a fisherman from Castara. This stay we fished as usual mainly with lures but we also had a few attempts with live-bait. We experienced that dawn and dusk wasn't the key for success. Nearly all of our fishes were caught later in the morning or earlier in the evening. We tried two dawns from the beaches plugging without success and several dusks also without much success. On the flats we tried our best to catch some bonefish. Interestingly nearly exactly one year ago, I always had success in the morning. This time we didn't manage to catch even one in at least 4 attempts! (2 mornings-, midday-, evening-sessions). The only bonefish we saw was a dead one washed up the beach.

Also we didn't catch any Snook this time. I only had one follower, which was small. In the Englishman's Bay we saw two Jack Blitzes, one from boat and a second at about 10 o'clock in the morning on the right side of the beach. We all had to run a few meters to reach the area where the fish were active. What a pity that we arrived too late to get a hook-up!

Typical jacks - ML

Jacks - We had a few Jacks from shore up to 3-3.5 kg all from the same bay. This was the only place where we saw small brown noddys and pelicans hunting for sprats. Because of that we walked far out to where the flat/reef drops off to a few meters. It was very hard standing on the stones fighting every wave. My new and hopefully saltwater resistant Shimano Twinpower SW was a good investment since my equipment and myself got washed a few times by big waves.

Tarpon - One day we saw a few tarpon rolling around midday. This time we had luck at the jetties catching sprats. We free-lined them on a 4/0 Circlehook, standing in waist-deep water. I had 3 takes all of which I lost! My friend caught a small Tarpon of maybe 15-18 lbs.

I lost all of my fish because I was using 0.60 mm hard mono which always got rubbed by the horny plates. I didn't know that a tarpon would rub through 20 kg hard mono!

For the following attempts we switched to short wire traces. I don't know if it was because of the (decent) wire leaders but we didn't manage another take!

Although we were using circle hooks, none of our Tarpon had the hooks in the corner of it's mouth. (we didn't wait long to tighten the line after feeling a take - maybe 2-3 seconds). I lost a really big one (for me) of maybe 40-50 lbs. It was amazing seeing him jumping out of the water. By his 3rd or 4th jump the line went slack and after reeling in I could see that the trace was totally rough at the end where the hook was supposed to be. Damn!

I managed a baby-tarpon of maybe 4-5 lbs in Little Englishman's Bay on a small Rapala countdown. Sadly the fish was hooked in one of his eyes. When I was thinking about what to do with the fish, a guy was running towards us. It was clear that he saw me fighting the fish and he was after it. I told him that tarpon has a lot of bones and an oily taste but he was convinced that it is good for eating.

This time I learned a lot about tarpon fishing. Never use hard mono below 0.8mm. We used 0.60mm which was absolutely no problem for the Tarpon to get through... After I discovered this we switched to short wire traces. Although we had a few more attempts at different places we didn't get another bite. I don't think that the wire trace was the problem, but who knows??? We used 4/0 circle hooks this time and every take was a hook-up. What a pity that we had to learn about the leader which we have to use in the future!

Barracuda - We tried some different rocky/reefy places with all kind of lures. Nothing! We saw one small barracuda when a friend of mine was landing a small jack. The barracuda was after it... Except for this little fellow no contact. On our last day (we left the island in the afternoon) we were having a look at the sea... Suddenly my friend was screaming "Riesen barrakuda!" (Big ....!). My other friend and I climbed quickly out of the car and headed toward the cliff. Then we saw "him". A barracuda of a size which I've only seen on pictures or in videos. 13m to 1,4m long, swimming just under the surface 20m from the shore in murky water.

We all three tackled-up in olympic record time. When we were all ready no fish was in sight any more... So we blind casted...still standing 5 m above the shore on the cliff. I waited for the other 2 to finish their casts then I threw in my big popper. It landed on a sandy and murky patch in the water. After 2 cranks a biiiig head came out of the water and .....missed my popper. ...we didn't get another take from this big fish and the fish disappeared. That’s fishing!

On our very last fishing session we found a school of small cero mackerel in a small bay very close to the rocks. We caught a few ones but they all were quite small and no problem on our tackle, BUT another species which I only had once on Tobago.

Offshore-Fishing trip with Eldon (fisherman from Castara) I've fished with Eldon - he's a star. ML We started at about 7 o'clock in the morning at Castara heading for the "Three Sisters" (offshore rocky islets). My 2 friends were trolling blue mackerel Xraps, I was fishing a green mackerel Xrap. I outfished them in the first 3 hours with maybe 6 or 7 fish for me (kingfish, horse-eye jacks, greenback jacks, bonito) to one or two fish each for the others. It was clear that the green pattern was better than the blue! By midday fishing got a bit slow and we switched to deeprunners. We all managed a few more red snapper and kingfish. Best catch of the day was a nice 10-12 lbs horseeye jack which I caught on a deeprunner in front of the Sister Islands. Nice game on a light rod!

On our way back from the Sisters to Castara, I was trolling a 1-2 lbs bonito for barracuda close to the rocks. But nothing happened....

Altogether, we had about 10 Snapper, 5 Kingfish, a few bonito and maybe 5 or 6 Jacks. Although we were nearly 10 hours on the small boat it was an enjoyable trip (at least) for me.

In summary we had a nice week at my second home. The weather was very good (sunny, sometimes some clouds and not much rain). The swell was in flood times sometimes too high. We could have caught some more decent fish, but well you can't force catching fish.

I don't know why but I was so keen I can't understand why we didn't catch any bonefish this trip. The conditions were perfect. We tried it on different tides at very low water or at extreme high water. Absolutely no luck.

Tarpon situation: Do you think that it is an impact of fishing tourism that the Tarpon got less in numbers or is it just because that there wasn't enough food for them?

Thanks to Operation Sea-Angler and your posts about fishing on the south coast of England I look at beaches where I fish in a different way. There were huge piles of seaweed at the flat beaches in Tobago but no "maggots". I hoped so much that there IS something inside the weed which is washed out at hightide, so that maybe bonefish will come to harvest it. But perhaps not!

If you have any comments or questions about fish, methods, tactics or 'what have you.'get in touch with me by sending an E-MAIL to - docladle@hotmail.com

Nice jack!

Caught from the shore these fish are dynamite.'


Even from the boat on light gear it is magic.'

Good bag - snapper, kingfish and jacks.

All the fish caught would be eaten.  In Tobago 'Line Caught' really does mean 'Line Caught'.'

The Sisters.

These rocks aren't all that far from the shore but it's always pretty bumpy out there.'


Just like giant mackerel with teeth.'