Tarpon Facts

Things to Know About Tarpon

By Capt. Mike Manning

Fossil research shows that tarpon have been swimming in our oceans since prehistoric times.

Tarpon can reach sizes up to 8 feet and can weigh up to 280 pounds.

The life span of a tarpon can be in excess of 50 years. The oldest tarpon in captivity lived to be 63 years old.

Due to its majestic appearance of size and color, the tarpon is nicknamed “silver king.”

Tarpon are primarily found in shallow coastal waters and estuaries, but they are also found in open marine waters, around coral reefs, and in some freshwater lakes and rivers.

Tarpon range from Virginia to central Brazil in the western Atlantic, along the coast of Africa in the eastern Atlantic, and all through the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea.

Because of its strength, stamina, and fighting ability, the tarpon is one of Florida’s premier game fish.

Tarpon have a special ability to gulp air at the surface when they are in a habitat that doesn’t provide enough oxygen.

In their larval stage, tarpon are transparent, have a ribbonlike body and prominent fanglike teeth, and are less than an inch long.

Gus Bell and record 243lb tarpon

Tarpon can only be fished recreationally in Florida. The majority of recreational anglers practice catch and release since the fish is not considered to be of any food value. However, anglers can possess them for trophy purposes at the cost of $50.00 per tag, per fish. Without this tag, possession is illegal.

Florida records for tarpon

Conventional Tackle:

243 pounds
Key West
Gus Bell, 2/17/1975


Jim Holland, Jr 202.5lb fly tarpon

Fly Fishing Tackle:    

202 pounds, 8 ounces
Jim Holland, Jr., 5/11/2001