Skip to main content

Tarpon Fishing for the Uninitiated

Flickr/FWC Fish & Wildlife Research Institute

Tarpon fishing is one of the best, most unique fishing experiences is the U.S. and should definitely be on your bucket list. 

If you've never been tarpon fishing, you should seriously consider giving it a try. One of the most challenging saltwater game fish, it'll make you work for it, but it's an experience you'll never forget.

Tarpons, sometimes called silver kings, are a large fish native to the Atlantic Ocean and can be found from the beaches of Virginia through the Caribbean and into the Gulf of Mexico. Ranging from four to eight feet in length and weighing 60 to 280 pounds, these fish can be found in both saltwater coastal regions and fresh water rivers and estuaries.

Flickr/Phil's 1st Pix

More from Wide Open Spaces:

10 best places to hunt ducks in the U.S.

Hunting Works for Oregon group forms to promote hunting

10 best places to kill an elk in the U.S.

Tarpons don't mature until around seven years old and can live to be at least 13. Both the juveniles and adults are good to fish and put you through a challenge like no other.

The fish tend to be bluish or green in color and have shiny, silvery scales everywhere but on their head. The lower jaw protrudes and opens wide into the fish's bony mouth. Tarpon are bony and are not good to eat; therefore they're often just catch and release.

One thing that makes tarpons unique is their air bladder, which is sort of like a primitive lung that fills with water to increase oxygen levels. You can watch tarpons come to the surface and take huge gulps of air before going back under the water. This mechanism is what allows them to swim in both fresh and salt water, and the murky waters they are sometimes fond of.

Flickr/Marsha Wheatley

Tarpon fishing becomes a challenge because the fish splash and jump out of the water, putting on a rather spectacular show. It's not easy to keep them hooked and many a good fisherman has lost their fair share of tarpon. When they're struggling against the line, tarpon leap entirely out of the water, and when you've got a 250-pound fish 10 feet up in the air, pulling and tugging on your line, it makes you stay on your A-game.

A popular sporting fish on the Florida coast, tarpon fishing is best when the water temperatures are above 70 degrees. April through June tend to give the best results, but as long as the water's warm, the tarpon are there. Typically caught near the shoreline, you don't need a big boat to fish these monsters.

Depending on the time of year, the conditions, and clarity of the water, tarpon typically bite well on lie shrimp or pinfish. If you're looking to use artificial bate, Key's-style streamers work best.

Be prepared to put up a fight, but tarpon fishing is definitely worth the struggle.

you might also like

Tarpon Fishing for the Uninitiated