Regional Reports-South

Lake Tarpon

Driving by Pinellas County's Lake Tarpon isn't likely to inspire you to grab the flipping rod and head for the cattails. The housing developments, businesses and heavy traffic flanking the shoreline don't exactly set a comfortable, outdoorsy mood. Yet with top-notch largemouth fishing on tap, serious anglers might want to reconsider. According to Tim Coughlin, a fisheries biologist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), South Region, recent surveys reveal that Lake Tarpon boasts not only an excellent largemouth population, but plenty of good-sized bass in the four- to six-pound range, which is surprising considering the lake is in a dense urban center. That, however, may be the lake's best asset. With relatively few urbanites "at one" with their fishing tackle, and veteran fishermen preferring quiet solitude on the water, moderate fishing pressure, a good fish biomass and a strong tradition of catch-and-release by regulars has made Lake Tarpon one of the better largemouth waters in the state. There are two public-access areas to Lake Tarpon-Anderson Park on the northwestern shore and Chestnut Park to the southeast. Both feature boat ramps. Biologist Coughlin recommends plying the lake's natural shoreline this time of year using plastic worms and flipping in the cattails. He also suggests working Lake Tarpon Canal at the south end of the lake. Come summer, anglers will do well to follow the shad schools out to the open water, concentrating on submerged islands and humps, as well as drop-offs and off-shore vegetation. Contact: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, South Region (813-648-3203).