Tackle and Tactics
A few months ago I had an email from Ivan Martin. Ivan knew that I’d fished in Tobago a fair bit and he was going on a family holiday to the Island after a fifteen year gap. I thought that our exchange of emails might be of interest to anyone fancying a sunny trip. So here it is:-
I hope you don’t mind me emailing you?
We are off to Tobago next Wednesday after going there 15 years ago when we stayed at Turtle Beach. Then I managed to sneak off a few times with my rods and lures with local fishermen and bagged a few barracuda mostly on a Rapala J13 blue which I still have complete with bite marks.
This time I will be going back along with 2 boys and a selection of tackle. We are staying at Coco Reef. I am planning to take a cast net as well as lures to try live baiting etc. I have done this many times in Florida and caught the usual snook, snapper, jacks & redfish etc so have some knowledge of tropical fishing & the species. Without giving away too many of your favourite spots would you happen to know if that end of Tobago offers much opportunity for fishing? I am guessing round the airport and possibly Store & Cable bay. Also is there much opportunity to buy any spare tackle out there? I am taking what seems like a huge amount (thank goodness for 2 children and 30kg of baggage allowance each!) but am sure to forget something!
Ivan Martin - Buckingham (miles from the sea!)
Thanks for the email. I'm quite envious of your trip. We've stayed at the Coco Reef several times and it's an excellent centre for exploring the fishing.
I guess that you'll be hiring a car while your away. Without one the possibilities are pretty restricted. I generally do a recce on the first two days to find blitzes, feeding birds and/or baitfish etc. I then concentrate on the areas of activity.
As you suggest Crown Point/Sandy Point is a pretty consistent beach for jacks, tarpon and snook (not necessarily all at the same time) and, like most spots, is best fished round about first or last light. Lures and livebaits are both good and we've also had big fish on lumps of flying fish. Store Bay usually has too many boats and bathers for me to bother with it.
Pigeon Point is another good bet, I generally spin with a small, shallow diving plug for bonefish and barracuda by wading out from the beach just outside the gates of the facility. Along the reef you may get jacks of various kinds, also tarpon and barracuda but cut offs on the coral are a problem. From within Pigeon Point you can walk along the sand to the mangroves and fish with lures or flies for small tarpon, snook and barracuda under the branches.
Turtle Beach and Plymouth are occasionally good for big snook and tarpon and Grange Beach also produces jacks and tarpon at times but none of them are at all reliable (on the odd occasion we've had fantastic sport).
The shores and flats around Buccoo and along towards No Man's Land can be good spots for bonefish, snook and tarpon but be careful of the deep channel close in if you wade (I do). Kilgwyn flats are similar. Both areas hold lots of barracuda as well - mostly small but sometimes not.
Most of the beaches on the Caribbean side of the Island are worth a go and you are likely to catch snapper, grunts, houndfish, ladyfish, lizardfish, etc. pretty well anywhere. I never fish without a wire trace but I expect you are well aware of that.
Hope this is helpful.
Let me know how you get on.
Hi again Mike,
Just thought I would give you an update on how we got on in Tobago.
The first couple of days I tried at Sandy point at 1st light and again at last light. On both occasions the sea was alive with tarpon feeding on baitfish. We tried with a variety of lures but could get any takes.
(Not unusual!!! M.L.)
We went to Pigeon point and walked along the edge of the flats. I spotted about 3 or 4 bonefish on a flooding tide again but could not get a take on a lure. I tried later at the reef edge where the boats are moored and was cut off by a decent fish probably a jack.
I was also able to cast to a couple of small sharks about 4 ft in length that were patrolling right alongside the beach. The 2nd one chased the lure a couple of times but I could not induce a take.
We then tried from a boat. We started fishing very early at Sandy Point without success so we moved round to Buccoo. We immediately spotted tarpon hunting bait up to the shore line.
First cast I jumped a tarpon probably about 8lb or so . My youngest aged six then hooked up to a similar sized one which he had on for about 5 minutes until it was lost at the boat. Unfortunately his arm was tired - he retired for a while! My wife then used his rod and managed to land 2 tarpon of about 10lb or so. My 10 year old then had a screaming run which turned out to be a bonefish of about 6lb not a bad way to christen a new rod and reel! Unfortunately my trip remained blank.
We hired the same skipper again a few days later and this time no fish were evident along the Buccoo shoreline. We then moved into ‘back bay’ a mangrove lined area behind Buccoo. Immediately we were into fish. These seemed to commit to the bait much more readily than those at Buccoo – I think this may be something to do with the scarcity of bait fish whereas at Buccoo they were chasing large shoals and were not interested in the bait . This time five out of six tarpon strikes were hooked and landed although the fish were still small. We did move away from the shoreline to try and get into some larger tarpon that were spotted further out. After some early excitement when we thought the 10 year old had hooked one we were wrong (it turned out to be an African pompano). We managed some more jacks and small barracuda plus a nice snapper by the 6 year old caught trolling a small jointed plug and the wife had the largest ladyfish I have ever seen.
So whilst it was not as successful from the shore as I had hoped we all managed to catch some fish and perhaps more importantly the children are both well & truly hooked.
Incidentally, one evening we were invited aboard a boat moored just outside the coco reef wall for a bbq. The lights brought in some baitfish and then 2 enormous tarpon that must have been 7ft plus. Unfortunately I did not have a rod with me and the boat departed to Trinidad the next morning. We also had the 1st ever turtle nest to hatch at Coco reef although I doubt many of the young hatchlings escaped the wall and parrot fish.
Well! My advice on shore fishing didn’t pay off too well did it? (although the fish seem to have been there and there’s always a fair element of luck involved in getting them to bite). Anyway, I think Ivan and his family appear to have had a good time. Roll on my next trip!
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