The Tampa, Clearwater, Boca Grande areas of Florida are some of the best areas in the world for tarpon fishing. Tarpon are one of the largest gamefish that roam the shallow flats. The fish (also known as the “silver king”) are one of the most powerful fish, pound for pound, in the world.
Not only are they powerful, they make spectacular jumps. On just about every hook-up there will be a display of acrobatical jumps. There is nothing like it when a bright silver “SILVER KING” weighing anywhere from 100 to 200 pounds clears the water by six feet.
We catch these mighty silver kings on tarpon fishing charters in several different areas along the West Coast. The large tarpon show up in the mouth of Tampa Bay in March. These fish move throughout Tampa Bay all summer long, leaving sometime in October. On our charters, we catch these fish several different ways. These techniques include sight fishing with artificial lures to live bait fishing with threadfins and blue crabs.
For anglers trying to beat Florida’s hot summer days, our night tarpon fishing charters around local bridges are a great alternative for fighting your trophy silver king.
During cooler months, juvenile tarpon can be caught in local rivers and residential canals. These fish range from 10 to 40 pounds. When using 8- to 10-pound-test tackle, these fish are a real challenge.
Tarpon/ Megalops Atlanticus
Ever since the first one was caught on rod and reel in Florida around 1885, the tarpon has been one of the most sought-after game fish in the world. For years prior to that catch it was considered impossible to land a tarpon; many had tried and failed. The 93-pound tarpon caught by H.H. Wood of New York City made world news in the sporting industry. The race began to catch more tarpon and even larger tarpon.
In 1898 Edward Hofe , a noted fishing reel manufacturer, caught a 210 pound tarpon in southwest Florida. He proved that very large tarpon could indeed be caught. The tarpon fever became an epidemic and it appears that there is no cure in sight.
Now over 100 years later, fisherman still flock to the well known areas where tarpon congregate on a seasonal basis. Fisherman still want to experience the unique thrill tarpon provide. Tarpon fishing has turned into an obsession with anglers who plan their whole year’s schedule around the tarpon season and tarpon runs.
It is easy to see why tarpon fishing is so addictive. Tarpon grow very large and are plentiful. Tarpon take a wide variety of baits, lures and flies. The fight of a hooked tarpon is one truly awesome experience in the world of sport fishing.
Tarpon are known for their initial jumps and powerful runs. Even with modern gear tarpon are strong adversaries and are not easily taken. They are legendary for their ability to throw hooks because of their bony mouths make hook setting difficult. Hooking a tarpon is like trying to penetrate steel. Combine this with violent head thrashing jumps some as high as 10 feet. It becomes very clear why tarpon are able to not only throw hooks but break lines and leaders. A technique which is a lean toward the tarpon when it is ready to break surface known as “a bow to the king” creates a slack in the line to help keep the tarpon from throwing the hook. In spite of the many challenging traits tarpon have catching a world class tarpon still remains a highlight of many anglers.
Where to find tarpon
Tarpon range in warmer saltwater areas from Virginia to South America. They have a year round presence the center portion of this range, most notable in Florida. Tarpon in the upper and lower extremes of their range tend to migrate to reach preferred water temperatures. This explains why tarpon are often caught along well-established migration routes. Tarpon are long-lived species that can grow incredibly large. Many tarpon are over 200 pounds. With the current all tackle world record standing at 283 pounds, 4 ounces. There have been a number of fish seen that would easily top the 300 pound mark. The 300 pound tarpon is one of the Holy Grail of salt-water fishing. It is still sought by a number of fanatical sportsmen.
Small tarpon are found just about anywhere that warm water and brackish estuaries exist. Small tarpon are occasionally found in land locked lakes such as those found in south Florida. The fish are limited in size due to the lack of food available. It is not known how the fish got to those areas.
The Tamiami Trail in south Florida is a good example of prime habitat. The “Trail” as it is called locally was built in the early part of the century by a crew that dug a ditch from Miami to what would years later become Marco Island. The spoil from the ditch was piled next to the dredge to form the roadbed. The ditch from this project still exists today and is full of small tarpon. This is a great place for those who like to cast from shore and try their luck at tarpon fishing. Similarly the numerous creed and bays of the Everglades National Park have miles of mangrove shorelines and are prime spots to search for your small tarpon.
As tarpon mature they move out onto open water flats and often congregate in large schools. Bays inlets and intracoastal waterways in Florida are all areas that have a good number of schooling fish. These mid-sized fish are numerous along many coastal bays on the shorelines of the Gulf of Mexico.
GROUND ZERO for tarpon fishing is Boca Grande Pass on the West coast of Florida. This deep water pass is the primary opening into Charlotte Harbor and lies between the southern point of Gasparilla Island and the northern shore of Cayo Costa Island. Large amounts of water flow in and out of this pass and carry with it huge amount of food for the tarpon that arrive by the thousands. The fish begin to show up in early April and congregate in the 80-foot deep hole just off the tip of Gasparilla Island. Tarpon continue showing up in the pass feeding on the thousands of small crab that flow out to the Gulf from Charlotte Harbor. With the arrival of the tarpon comes the arrival of the tarpon fishermen eager to tangle with one of the great silver kings.
Boca Grande has become a very popular place to fish during this time. Each year seems to get more popular. It is a very exciting place during the tarpon season due to the number of fish in the pass. Schools containing hundred of tarpon will roll beside your boat. The atmosphere in the pass is electric when the bite is on with as many as 20 fish being fought at the same time. Boca Grande offers the best opportunities for anglers to catch a giant tarpon.