Choosing a Tarpon Guide

Tarpon are a special breed-the mightiest inshore game fish in the world. And being special, a specialist in finding and catching them is what’s called for.

Many guides run tarpon charters, but it is the guide who has made tarpon his top priority-his specialty and main pursuit in the world of sport fishing that offers you the best chance of success.

Think about it: Guides, their equipment and tactics have evolved over the years, and like doctors, they now specialize. You wouldn’t go to a brain surgeon for a heart bypass, would you?

The consequences of choosing the wrong guide in your quest for tarpon are not nearly as grave as opting for the wrong medical specialist, but if you are paying for a tarpon experience, you deserve the experience only a tarpon specialist can deliver. Otherwise, why go tarpon fishing at all?

Capt. Mike Manning is a tarpon specialist with two decades of stalking and catching the silver king under his belt. Capt. Mike is a proven tarpon tournament angler, and master of tarpon on the beaches, backcountry and the world famous Boca Grande Pass.


4,532 (about 650 per season) tarpon hooked 2010-2017
What a few people had to say:

I wanted to tell you how much we appreciate the time and effort, plus tremendous angling expertise you have provided over the years. Aside from all the tarpon you have put us on (dozens of fish, including my first tarpon ever), I want you to know how much fun we have just being there with you. Your boat and gear are always immaculate and first class. You always make our tarpon fishing trips perfect in every way. I think we have tarpon fished every Memorial Day weekend for the past 15 years! – Warm regards,

I’m from Maryland and I fish all over the world, but I always enjoy going Tarpon fishing in Boca Grande with Captain Mike. Whenever I go fishing in Florida I go with him. He has the skill and expertise to catch the biggest and best Tarpon. – John from MarylandGoing Tarpon fishing in Tampa Bay is as exciting as it sounds! Go with an experienced guide like Captain Mike. He understands how to catch Tarpon in Tampa Bay and Boca Grande Pass so it just makes the experience that much better. Each trip has been great! – Lisa from Clearwater, FLOnce you have hooked a tarpon, you are hooked for life! I’ve been Tarpon fishing at Boca Grande and in Tampa Bay for the last 10 or 12 years with Mike and I have never had a bad trip. We always catch fish. – Bill Smick from West VirginiaWhat can I say, Mike is a great captain, but more importantly he is a terrific person. I have been fishing with Captain Mike for 8 years and each trip has been loaded with action, fun and new adventure. – Danny from Buffalo, NY

Tarpon fishing done right

Tarpon My Way

Tarpon at the boat – mission accomplished

There are lots of ways to fish for tarpon in Boca Grande/Charlotte Harbor. They all have their appeal, but my way of fishing is fish stalking with lighter tackle and live bait during daylight hours. My way catches tarpon for my clients and provides a high level of excitement and satisfaction; it’s that simple.

Sight casting live bait on spinning tackle is not just exciting, but one of the most productive ways to catch tarpon. For those hunters out there, tarpon fishing is a lot like hunting. We start out looking for a school of what we call “happy tarpon.”  They are generally slow rolling, floating on the surface, or just finning. There is nothing like sneaking up on a happy school of tarpon with our trolling motor, and slinging a crab out and watching a giant tarpon sky rocketing out of the water 10 feet into the air.


Tarpon fishing in the peak of the Boca Grande/Charlotte Harbor season means lots of charter boats carrying clients are on the water. Unfortunately, many of those client-anglers have no idea they made the wrong choice for their charter captain.  I hate to see it, so DON’T BE THAT GUY.

Don’t be that guy stuck on a boat that doesn’t even have a trolling motor.
Don’t be that guy on a boat without live crabs in the live well
Don’t be that guy who booked a captain just because he has a couple of tournament trophies. Charter fishing isn’t tournament fishing, after all.
Don’t be that guy who fell for the “no-pay-tarpon guarantee.” The guarantee usually is that you will hook or jump a tarpon. It sounds great until you realize your guide stepped down to 30-pound-test leader just to get a bite, but the fish quickly cuts through the leader. My job is to not only find and hook tarpon, but ensure you land one.
Don’t be that guy who believes the guarantee means your guide will work harder for you because of a guarantee. In fact, it can be just the opposite – he won’t even try. I see it every year when a guarantee guide cancels your trip just because the fishing was a little tough the day before. He’s spooked by his own guarantee and the prospect of giving away a free trip, so you miss out while others booked with better guides are on the water catching fish
Don’t be that guy who booked a guide who only knows one way and one place to catch tarpon. Ask him where he plans to fish, and if he says Boca Grande Pass, ask him what happens if the fish are not there. Can he fish the beach, the harbor, the Hill?
Don’t be that guy who is embarrassed by his guide, because instead of finding tarpon for his clients, he follows reputable, fish-catching tarpon guides around in hopes the better guide will lead him to the fish. There is nothing more mortifying for those poor clients. I know, because I’ve seen it when those captains follow me.
Don’t be that guy who opts for a booking service thinking it’s the best way to go. While booking services do feature good tarpon guides, the downside is that many guides who have trouble booking trips also are part of these services, and there’s a reason they have trouble booking trips.


Capt. Mike Manning

Capt. Mike Manning is a tarpon specialist with two decades of stalking andcatching the silver king under his belt. Capt. Mike is a proven tarpon
tournament angler, and master of tarpon on the beaches, back country and the world famous Boca Grande Pass.

With nearly all of his professional fishing charters dedicated to tarpon, anglers can be sure they have chosen a guide who is laser-focused on the prize.  For Capt. Mike, it’s eat, sleep, and breathe tarpon every day from April to November. It’s his relentless passion and commitment to the silver king that makes Capt. Mike the right choice when catching tarpon is your goal.

Capt. Mike is well known and respected by his peers, the industry, the community and within his strong client base. He has been featured on several television fishing shows, newspaper articles, and is a featured guide writer for the St. Petersburg Times.

In addition to leading successful Florida fishing charters, Capt. Mike serves as a field consultant for Mercury Outboards, Andros Boats, St. Croix Rods, Berkley Fishing Line, Shimano Reels, Motor Guide Trolling Motors, Mirr-O-Lure, and 12 Fathom Jigs.

Capt. Mike runs an impeccably kept 24′ Avenger. The boat features a “tuna tower” for the advantage of spotting fish on the shallow flats from great distances. The boat is powered by a “state of the art” current year model, Yamaha 300. The boat is specifically and uniquely designed to fish the backwaters to the near shore reefs of the Gulf Coast. The “hi tech wonder” draws just inches of water, yet offers a full transom and adequate freeboard to safely fish in most any conditions. A high thrust electric trolling motor is utilized in stalking wary tarpon and a push poll is used to creep up on fish in shallow water. She comfortably and safely fishes 1 to 4 people. The boat is equipped beyond all Coast Guard standards. A VHF radio and cellular telephone are always on board.

My tarpon charters depart from the Boca Grande Guide Docks:
491 Bayou Ave., Boca Grande, Fla. 33921




“Call or email me and I’ll be happy to discuss the best tarpon charter option for you.” – Capt. Mike Manning

Call: 727-243-8918

Email: captmikemanning@gmail.com

My Boca Grande tarpon charters depart from the Boca Grande Guide Docks:
491 Bayou Ave., Boca Grande, Fla. 33921