San Juan Tarpon Hunt

Access couldn't be easier to some world-class tarpon grounds in Puerto Rico

August 16, 2013
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This spring, Salt Water Sportsman joined Capt. Juan Torruella of Extreme Fishing Puerto Rico to fish the famed tarpon lagoons of San Juan. With steady action over two full days of fishing — including numerous fish breaking into the triple digits — we found these easily-accessible tarpon grounds to be the perfect quick-getaway destination. Cindy Holtzclaw
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Capt. Torruella runs the 20-foot Twin Vee cat Extremist on daily charters leading through mangrove-lined canals to the three connected local lagoons: San Jose Lagoon, La Torrecilla Lagoon and Los Corozos Lagoon, all of which regularly produce trophy-sized fish. Torruella has led clients to numerous IGFA world records in these lagoons, and he also holds the title of IGFA representative for the Loiza area east of San Juan. Cindy Holtzclaw
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Smaller tarpon can be found in the lagoons year-round, along with snook, snapper and other inshore favorites, but the big fish migrate through in the spring from March to May, and again in the fall during October and November. Cindy Holtzclaw
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Torruella’s home base is the Cangrejos Yacht Club, which is only a five-minute drive from the airport and about 15 minutes from downtown San Juan. From there, the boat ride to the fishing grounds is very short. The on-site restaurant serves killer mofongo for lunch when you get back to the dock tired and hungry from fighting fish all morning. Ben Holtzclaw
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The docks at Cangrejos Yacht Club. Ben Holtzclaw
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San Jose Lagoon as seen from a distance. While all of the local lagoons produce fish, we spent most of our time fishing mostly to the left of the bridge during our visit. The lagoon is unique in that areas were dredged in the 1960s around the perimeter, creating holes over 35 feet deep in some areas in an otherwise shallow lagoon, which may play a part in drawing trophy fish to the area. Ben Holtzclaw
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Narrow, mangrove-lined canal leading to the San Jose Lagoon. Cindy Holtzclaw
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Rods down! A tight fit through an overpass bridge explains why none of the San Jose Lagoon regulars have T-tops or towers on their boats. Add in a rushing tidal flow, and this passage is best left to the experts. Ben Holtzclaw
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Most live bait can be easily obtained on-site or on the ride out to the lagoons. Cindy Holtzclaw
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A well full of healthy baits ready for duty.
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We decided to supplement our live bait options with a few mojarra, courtesy of the local economy. Cindy Holtzclaw
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Hooking the mojarra (locally called “perch”) expertly through the front of the nose maximizes both lifespan and liveliness. Cindy Holtzclaw
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Live mojarra ready for duty. These live baits were freelined with no weight. Cindy Holtzclaw
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A threadfin “sandwich” fished on the bottom with no weight often proves irresistible to trophy tarpon. Cindy Holtzclaw
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Part of Capt. Torruella’s tarpon arsenal. When targeting the bigger fish, he generally uses 20- to 25-pound-test lines and 7500- to 8500-class reels.
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Anglers target tarpon on the San Jose Lagoon between morning rain showers. Cindy Holtzclaw
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A tarpon goes airborne and the action begins. Cindy Holtzclaw
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A healthy tarpon is brought to the boat, the circle hook removed and the fish revived to swim off and fight another day. Cindy Holtzclaw
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Another airborne bruiser. Cindy Holtzclaw
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The bite started slow, but once it picked up action was consistent. Cindy Holtzclaw
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We never had a reason to switch off live and dead baits, which were producing consistently, but San Juan’s tarpon often prove finicky and force a change-up, sometimes to artificials. Here D.O.A. TerrorEyz and Shrimp in preferred colors are just part of Torruella’s arsenal.
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Assorted Slug-Go offerings.
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Berkley Gulp! and PowerBait round out artificial options.
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Another nice tarpon release. Cindy Holtzclaw
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Another fish comes boatside.
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Back at the dock, there’s no shortage of help in cleaning out the baitwell. Cindy Holtzclaw
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We stayed at the Verdanza hotel, which provided very nice and affordable accommodations a mere five minute drive from the airport and only five minutes to the yacht club. Ben Holtzclaw
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No trip here is complete without a visit to Old San Juan, the restored colonial section of the city that dates back to the early 1500s. The area is a fascinating mix of historical sites, a working, living neighborhood, and familiar tourist attractions.
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A turret at Castillo San Felipe del Morro, which has guarded the entrance to San Juan Bay for centuries. Cindy Holtzclaw
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There’s still time to book a trip for the fall run of big fish, and don’t miss our full feature early next year on how to fish San Juan’s convenient and productive tarpon grounds. Cindy Holtzclaw

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