In and explosion of salt spray, the great silver fish emerged from the water less than ten feet from the boat. Sunlight reflected off the silver dollar-sized scales as though refracted by a thousand tiny mirrors when the more than six foot long fish shot ten feet above his briny home like a wayward Polaris missile! After returning to the sea with a loud splash, the anglers watched in both awe and fear as the huge fish again broke free of its watery confines and tail-walked directly towards them. The fisherman who had hooked the monster yelled, “Lookout!” He then ducked below the gunwale of the boat as the great Silver King smashed into the side with a resounding crash! Only foam from the churning saltwater and a lure completely entangled with loose monofilament were left from the brief but violent encounter with the big tarpon.
Tales of exciting battles with these huge fish are fairly common in most tropical parts of the Atlantic and Caribbean during the warmer months of the year. Tarpon fishing along the Georgia Coast, however, still remains a secret to most anglers. Only a few savvy fishermen have experienced the rush of adrenaline that always accompanies battling these fish in Peach State waters.
Nevertheless, at times, hundreds of tarpon can be seen frolicking just below the surface at high tide near the mouth of the Altamaha River. Most of these fish will average 35 to 100 pounds, but numerous larger fish are landed in the area each year.
Tarpon fishing along the Georgia Coast is considerably different than in Florida’s waters. The Sunshine State’s clearer water allows “sight casting” in much shallower areas. The Altamaha Delta, on the other hand, has murky waters and much of the fishing is done “in the blind.” Instead of actually seeing the tarpon, one can see them rolling and feeding by their movement in the water. One advantage is that in the darker water, tarpon seem to be less spooky and will hit larger artificial lures.
Though not as much fun, natural baits like 10 to 12 inch mullet work well when cast or drifted near the feeding tarpon. Many are caught with this method at places like Hampton’s, Village Creek, and Buttermilk Sound.
Georgia’s tarpon fishery is truly an untapped source of piscatorial treasure. Peach State Silver Kings might be even larger in average size than those of more famous waters to the south. The mouth of the Altamaha River offers an exciting venture into big game fishing that doesn’t cost much in time or money, and the excitement of battling one of these huge silver minnows is unforgettable!