Frequently Asked Questions

Everglades tarpon on flyWhy do you only fish the Everglades in the spring and fall?

Timing is everything…

For over 24 years, since 1992, I have run my guide business and lived full time two hours North of the Everglades in the Boca Grande/Charlotte Harbor area.

In the spring thousands of tarpon migrate through the Everglades to arrive at my home area to spawn.  They stay throughout the entire summer.  After the spawn they feed heavily before heading South through the Everglades and the Florida Keys back to the Atlantic and beyond for the winter.

Early on, I fish the Everglades because it is the first place the fish stack up on their way to the North.  During the fall migration the fish tend to stop and hold in the Everglades to rest up and feed before making the move back to the Atlantic, Caribbean and beyond.

There is no other time of year and no other place in the country to fish for tarpon with almost zero fishing pressure.

Where in the Everglades do you fish? Chokoloskee? Everglades City? Flamingo?

Actually all of it.  I follow the migration.  Depending on the month I could be in any of those places.  Let me know when you are interested in coming and I can let you know where to stay, airport info, etc.

Do you guide any other time of year?

Absolutely, I have made a full time living for over 25 years guiding the Boca Grande/Charlotte Harbor area on the southwest coast of Florida.  For more information on my charters in the Boca Grande area: www.tarponsnook.com

I see you fish for tarpon in the Boca Grande/Charlotte Harbor area as well as the Everglades.  Which location is better?

Tarpon are a migratory species.  The peak times for each location are different.  I fish the peak season in both locations.  Having said that, the fishing is very different in both locations.  So different in fact I use different boats and even different tackle.

In the Boca Grande area I use my bigger boat.  It can handle up to 4 people.  We are usually fishing large (40-100 fish avg.) pods along the beaches and back in the bays.  Generally we ramp close to where we are fishing.  Runs are shorter.  Definitely more accessible.

Fishing in the Everglades area I use my skiff/flats boat.  I can take 1 or 2 passengers maximum.  Here we launch right square in the middle of nowhere.  We fish in the back bays, jungle rivers and shallow flats.  A true fishing adventure.  You might as well leave your phone behind, it won’t work here anyway.

I love both places.

So it really is up to you.  Depending on the type of trip you want and the time of year you want to go.

There are a lot of guides on the internet advertising tarpon fishing in the Everglades.  How do I choose?

There sure are a lot…wow…funny thing is I don’t see very many of them on the water much less see them tarpon fishing.

I did some research before I built this page just to see what was up on the internet as well.  During the course of my research a few things struck me about the competition.

Did you notice?

Almost none of these guys have any recent photos of tarpon.  Not more than one or two anyway.  A lot of the time it is the same fish or the same photo used more than once.  Most of the sites I looked at were so outdated it made me wonder if they are even in business anymore.

Know this, all of the tarpon pictured in the gin clear water were caught somewhere in the keys. The water in the park is dark and brown. Depending on the tide anywhere from coffee to chocolate milk in color.

All of them advertise tarpon in the Everglades, but their photos/websites showcase other fish.  Snook, trout, redfish etc.  If you make a living catching 100+ pound fish wouldn’t you snap a few photos once in a while?  Why take photos of the little stuff and not the tarpon?

It is really easy to talk a good game…

Why are your prices not listed on your site?

They are not on my site because I would like the chance to talk to all of my prospective clients on the phone or email before they book their charter.

My prices are right in line with other full time professionals in the area, I do not want to be dismissed solely because my prices are higher than the average part timer you find on the internet. There are a lot of clowns in this business.

Why are your prices higher than a lot of the guides I have researched?

I fish for tarpon and tarpon only.  You can catch all of the other inshore species, snook, redfish, trout etc., all over the Everglades.  Actually in most of south Florida, right off the dock.  If you want to target other species like trout or redfish, please by all means call another guide.

In order to catch tarpon consistently you can’t take shortcuts or be stingy with fuel, tackle and the biggest one…TIME.  I need to be able to run where I need to, whenever I need to every day.  If I need to go further or stay longer I do.  I can not make do with worn out tackle or line.  My equipment has to be perfect.

Unlike 99% of the competition on the internet, I am a full time fishing guide.  I actually make a living at it.  I have since 1992.

Do not fall for the “Everglades Bait and Switch!!!”

For years I have heard nightmares from clients that booked tarpon trips with guides only to end up getting talked into fishing for sharks, snook, trout etc.  This is very common.

Hire someone that specializes in fishing for the species YOU want to fish for.

What do you think is the biggest difference in the charters you offer verses all of the rest?

That is simple…I fish for tarpon 100% of the time.

I hear the Everglades Tarpon are much smaller than in Boca Grande.  Is this true?

No it is not.  In fact they are the same fish.

In the Boca Grande/Charlotte Harbor area we are mostly fishing for migratory tarpon.  Full size 100+ pound tarpon.  The Everglades holds large numbers of tarpon big and small, migratory and resident tarpon.  While I do spend the majority of my time targeting the larger migratory tarpon, I love to fish for the smaller resident tarpon as well.

If we book a trip are you the guide that will be taking us fishing?

Yes.  I am not a booking or referral service.  I am a fishing guide.  I will be the one taking you fishing.

Are tarpon the only species of fish you target?

Down in the Everglades, yes.

Do you not like fishing for snook and other species?

Quite the contrary, I love to fish period.  There are several reasons I don’t target other species during tarpon season.

When there are tarpon around it is hard for me to concentrate on anything else other than tarpon. As far as fish go, there are none that can hold a candle to the tarpon.  From the techniques we utilize to catch them to the fish themselves.  If you have ever caught a tarpon you already understand what I am talking about.  If not you will…

Another reason is I feel like in order to stay on top of the best tarpon action it is important to be out there every day fishing for tarpon, not other stuff.  That is why I don’t take days off during the season.  When I do get a day off usually I am just four steps forward from where I am when I am working.  It is nice to trade the push pole for a fly rod once in a while.

If the tarpon bite is off can we just switch and fish for something else?

If catching a tarpon is what you want to do you need to fish for them.  If just catching any kind of fish is what you want to do there are tons of guides that specialize is the smaller, easier to catch species.

Tarpon fishing is what I do.

Vinny's Everglades snookAre tarpon the only species we will catch?

Most of the time tarpon are all we catch, but down in the Everglades you never know.

Do you fish 1/2 day trips?

Due to the tidal nature of the fishing and the vast expanses of the Everglades, I don’t fish 1/2 days. Generally we are fishing 8-10+ hours, sun up to sun down. It seems like a long day, but down in the Everglades the time seems to slip away from you.

How many anglers can you accommodate?

Currently, fishing the Everglades I run my skiff.  I can accommodate one or two people comfortably.

We have more than two anglers  in our group.  Can you organize multiple boats?

No, down in the Everglades I don’t.  Working with a network of other guides is a sure way to let EVERYONE know where you are fishing.  NOTHING spoils tarpon fishing worse than fishing pressure.

We (or people in our group) don’t have a lot of experience fishing.  Can we still catch a tarpon?

To me, it doesn’t matter if you have never fished before or have for over 50 years.  Tarpon fishing is different in almost every aspect from any other kind of fishing I have ever experienced.  Over the last 25+ years I have developed a proven method of teaching the techniques and skills necessary to land one of these giant fish.  I feel like I can teach anyone to be a skilled tarpon fisherman (or fisherwoman!).

We don’t fly fish, can we still fish with you?  (I am not sure why I get asked this question so often.)

Absolutely, as a matter of fact, the most effective way to catch a tarpon is on spinning/conventional tackle.

I have heard so much about fly fishing in the Florida Keys and Boca Grande.  Why fly fish for tarpon in the Everglades?

If there could be one perfect place in the world to fly fish for tarpon the Florida Everglades would be on top of the list.  Low fishing pressure means more cooperative fish.

I heard that May and June are the best months to catch a tarpon.  Is that true?

Absolutely not.  May and June are great months to fish, but we have lots of full size tarpon on the Southwest coast of Florida March thru November.  Starting some years as early as February and lasting all the way into December.

As a matter of fact, some of the most consistent and exciting shallow water tarpon fishing we have to offer is during the spring and fall migrations in the Florida Everglades.

Why do mullet jump?

Mullet jump because they are happy.

Do you do sunset cruises, bird watching or shelling trips?

That would be a no…seriously…no

I noticed you don’t look like the other guides in your business.

Lol…I have heard this my entire life.

No, if you are looking for a GQ, Buff wearing, fancy boat fishing, bullshit talking, pretty boy type, you are definitely in the wrong place. I just fish.

What do we need for the trip?

Sandwiches, snacks etc. Cooler space on my skiff is limited. I do supply bottled water. If you
want to bring a Gatorade or soda that is fine, but please get the smaller bottles. My cooler is a
50qt Yeti, when packed properly it holds more than enough for the day while not taking up too
much space on the deck.

No alcohol or beer is allowed on my boat during tarpon season.

Long sleeved shirt/pants, it can be a chilly ride first thing in the morning. I generally wear
sweats most mornings.
Foul weather/rain gear: I can supply a rain suit for you, but you need to let me know ahead of
time. We don’t get much rain, but you never know.
Cameras, video cameras etc: Definitely bring your stuff. There is dry storage on the boat.
Unlike fishing on my big boat in Boca Grande, unless you are fishing alone, we will not have Jenni to take photos.
Conventional and spinning tackle: I recommend you use my stuff. It is all top notch tackle and rigged properly. If you want to bring a rod, please discuss it with me ahead of time. I can make sure you got the right stuff.
Line size, rod, reel etc. I have every available spot on the boat loaded with tackle. So if you are
planning to bring a rod I will need to leave one home, so let me know.

You will have a 12″ deep x 20″ wide x 36″ long dry storage hatch for your gear. What you bring
must fit in this hatch or it doesn’t go, period. No coolers, bags or anything else can go unless it
fits in this hatch. Fishing for tarpon in a skiff for obvious reasons we don’t want anything
cluttering the deck.

Fly Fishing: Fly rod recommendations (listed in order of importance):

My skiff has very safe and secure under gunnel storage for fly rods.

11/12wt. This will be your main setup. I would have an intermediate line and a floater too.
This setup will get the most use in the rivers, bays and shorelines for full size tarpon. We
encounter more tarpon in the 100+ pound size range than the smaller ones.  The reel should hold 250+ yards of backing.

8wt. with a floating line is a real good idea for juvenile tarpon.

10wt. For this setup I would have a floating line. We will be using this setup for sleepers,
super shallow, spooky and smaller fish.  The reel needs to hold at least 200 yards of 30# backing.

Please have your rods out of the tubes and reels in place when I arrive to pick you up or you
show up at the ramp. My skiff has beautiful under gunnel protective rod storage. The tubes
need to stay in your vehicle or hotel.

What shouldn’t we bring?

No black soled shoes, alcohol of any kind (including beer), aerosol/spray on sunscreen or bananas.

NO BANANAS ALLOWED ON BOAT DURING TARPON SEASON!!!

This also means banana muffins, trail mix, etc.  This is no joke.  I am not kidding!

Is alcohol allowed on board?

No, during tarpon season it is not.

I am in this business to take people fishing, not to baby-sit a boatload of drunks.   If you are looking for a “Booze Cruise”, please look elsewhere.

What type of tackle do you use, do I need to bring my own?

All of my tackle is state of the art.  My fly rods are G. Loomis and Echo Prime.  My fly reels are by Abel, Nautilus and Tibor.  All of my spinning rods are by St. Croix rods.  My spinning reels are by Penn.

I also supply lures, flies, leaders and smart ass sarcastic remarks free of charge.

How do we book a trip?

Give me a call or email.  We can discuss and recommend best dates/tides or check availability for your dates.  I can also recommend lodging nearby.

How do we reserve a date or dates?

I take a deposit to reserve a date.  On multiple day trips, the balance of the charter fee is due on the morning of the first day.

All deposits are 100% refundable for cancellations due to bad weather or rough seas at my discretion.  For customer cancellations, if I can re-book the dates with someone else I will refund your deposit in full.

Really, I hate to take deposits and have cancellation policies, but unfortunately a few bad apples over the years have forced me to.

Do you take credit cards?

Yes, I do.  There is a small fee to use this service.  I charge exactly what they charge me.

Who builds your website?

Actually I do.  After being ripped off $350 by a website company over 20 years ago, I decided to teach myself.  I have no formal schooling in web design or writing.

After looking over the myriad of guides/outfitters websites out there, I knew my website had to be different.  I didn’t need the fancy junk or hyped up sales pitches.  I just needed to be honest with the content and have lots of photos of what we do.

Definitely a what you see is what you get/no bullshit philosophy.

Jenni Bennett with a tarpon on fly.The Photography on your site is great, how do you get so many great shots?

That is easy, for me anyway.  My wife Jenni is a professional photographer.  The best tarpon photos you have seen for over the last 20+ years in Sport Fishing Magazine, Saltwater Sportsman, Texas Fish and Game and Florida Sportsman are hers. (yes I am biased)  Being on the water during the Boca Grande tarpon season with me full time since 1996 and several hundred hookups a season means lots of opportunities.  Jenni averages 20,000-30,000 photos per season…seriously.  The hardest part of building this website is choosing from the hundreds of unbelievable shots Jenni gets every season.  This translates into magazine quality memories for all of my clients that fish during that time.

 

Just on the internet alone there are hundreds of fishing guides in Florida advertising tarpon fishing and tarpon on fly to choose from, but when you cut through the BS there really are only a few.  Here are a few things to help narrow your search.

Everglades tarpon on flyQuestion #1 when hiring a guide for anything, especially tarpon.  Ask them: How long has it been since you have caught a tarpon yourself?

The answer is VERY important.  They can say they have a fully booked season so they don’t have time etc. etc. blah, blah, blah… That is BS.

Out of a whole season (mine is 9 months) you will always have a cancellation at some point or time early or late in the season to get after them yourself.  I always make time if I have to.  I got into this business because I love to fish.  I try to, at the very least, catch a couple dozen or more myself.  I also think it is imperative to remember what the client is going through on the other end of the boat making the right cast or fighting the fish of their lifetime.

In my opinion, if you don’t absolutely love it to your heart and soul how can you be good at it.  If you have a passion for anything you make time.  Just writing this gets me excited about it.

Do you really want to go fishing with a guide that just drives you around and goes through the motions???  Or even worse one that spends all day on the phone booking trips and talking about other things not related to your trip?  Somebody that would rather be doing something else???

Why would you want to fish with anyone who doesn’t love it?

I have been in this business for over 24 years.  My seasons are fully booked.  If you think I treat this just like a regular job you are sadly mistaken.  Tarpon fishing requires very long hours, I get very little sleep, but it is so worth the reward.

It is in my soul.  I don’t have much left in the tank after 8pm, but at 4am I am on fire!

You know the saying, family first.  That doesn’t apply in my house during tarpon season…lol

YES, it is that important!

Everglades tarpon on fly

This business is not regulated by anyone.  Anybody can get a captains license and a website.  Then they can make any claim they want.  Many outright lie to people just to attract clients.

If the guide seems arrogant on the phone or email, imagine how it will be to spend the day with them.  How will they treat your wife or kids?

Most all of them claim to be a full time guide, very few actually make a living at it.

I get a kick out of reading the crap on their websites. Like: Capt. Zero graduated from so and so university then heard his calling so he went on to travel the world in search of giant fish…right after winning Olympic Gold in the summer games…then decided to be a fishing guide because he was drawn to the water by God… In reality it should say: Capt. Zero went to school, got a great job, retired to SW Florida and decided it would be best to have you make his boat payments…plus then he can write off all of his fishing vacations…lol… Or Capt. Zero was born rich, went to so and so university, spent all of his summers traveling to exotic destinations to fish and thought being a guide would be fun after his trust fund kicked in.

What does any of that crap have to do with catching you a fish anyway? Last time I checked tarpon and trophy snook don’t give a crap…lol

Me?..I graduated from the School of Hard Knocks at a very young age, felt lucky to have a pot to piss in, have lived along the West coast of Florida my whole life and haven’t done much of anything except fish. Shit, other than guiding, I never had a real job. (OK, you got me…I do hunt and shoot guns sometimes too…)

Photos don’t lie. You can tell when they are old, new, good or bad. How big and how many.

They might say they don’t take many photos these days or don’t have the time, right…

How many people do you know that catch 100#+ fish daily and don’t take photos?

Many come into this business with a big mouth, fancy boat and website.

You will see them all over the TV, magazines and newspapers.

After a couple years they go away just as suddenly as they showed up.

 

When planning a fishing trip, selecting the right fishing guide is the number one most important decision there is to make.

To put it simply, some catch fish and many don’t…

Choose wisely.

I have been saltwater fishing my whole life.

I am a full time guide. Fishing is how I have made a living for over 24 years, my entire adult life.

I am not a booking service. When you hire me, I will be the guide taking you fishing.

I can promise you this, there is not a person on this planet that loves tarpon fishing as much as I do.

It is easy to talk the talk, but to walk the walk…tough for most.

One day out will let you know,

I live for this!!

Everglades tarpon fishing

(I really do!!!)

For more information and reservations:

Capt. Mark Bennett

941-474-8900

captain@gladestarpon.com