Tarpon present a unique challenge to game anglers. Learn how to tackle this challenge in this guide to fishing for tarpon.

Here fishy, fishy!

If you’re trying to catch a Tarpon, you’re in for a good time. These game fish are going to give you a run for your money.

This evasive fish is sure to test your wits and your patience. If you’re up for the challenge, it can be a lot of fun going after this monster. Continue reading this article to make sure you know everything you need to know when you’re going after Tarpon.

What Is a Tarpon?

In case you don’t know what a Tarpon is, let’s get that cleared up first.

A Tarpon is a large fish you’ll find in both the Atlantic and the Indo-Pacific. We are going to focus on the Atlantic Tarpon that is commonly found in the Florida Keys.

This beast has become popular because of its size, stamina, strength and the way it jumps out of the water when it is hooked. If you snag an adult Tarpon, you’re fighting a beast that is four to eight feet long weighing anywhere from 60 to 280 pounds.

This shiny, slender fish keeps many anglers out on the water. Now let’s get into what you need to know when you’re Tarpon fishing.

When to Fish for Tarpon in Florida

If you go to Florida hoping to find Tarpon, you need to make sure they are in season. When you’re fishing for Tarpon, you need to know that it is catch and release only. The only way you’re able to keep a Tarpon is if you’ve bought a Tarpon tag for $50 to go after the IGFA world record.

Another note is that Tarpon fishing gear is limited to hook and line only. Play by the rules and get ready to have some fun.

Locations for Tarpon

When and where do you find these beasts? Find out below.

Upper & Middle Keys

When you want to snag a Tarpon, there is a large population in the Upper & Middle Keys. You can look for these Tarpon around Channel Bridges, Tom’s Harbor, Seven Mile Bridge and Long Key. 

These babies are here all throughout the year but if you want to be there during prime time to catch them, go from mid-March to mid-July. During the spring, you’ll find Tarpon on the Florida Bay side but they start to move to the Atlantic side as the year goes by.

Lower Keys

The Lower Keys are famous because of the southernmost point and mile 0 but that’s not the only reason to visit. Say hello to Tarpon fishing in the Lower Keys.

To find Tarpon go to Key West Harbor, Bahia Honda Bridge and Marquesas Keys. Here you’ll find the best fishing from May through late July but in Key West Harbor, you can find them January through March.

If you can make it down to the Lower Keys, this is the perfect place to put your line in the water for a much sought after Tarpon.

What Bait Are You Using?

What kind of bait do you need for Tarpon? You’re going to get the best results with natural bait during the ebb tide. Get up-current and let your bait drift down toward the Tarpon. You should be using sharp hooks because of the Tarpon’s sharp and bony mouth.

You can use shrimp or fish as live bait and artificial lures are a go as well.

If you’re fly fishing, make sure the color of your fly is working with the bottom. Your streamer should have a good contrast with the bottom. Retrieve your fly slowly and if you see a Tarpon looking at your lure, speed up the retrieval and make it twitch while you’re bringing it in.

Hooking a Tarpon

Ok, you’re ready for the good stuff. How do you hook this baby?

Since Tarpon have very mouths and that makes it difficult to hook them, many anglers count how many Tarpon they’ve jumped that day. If you do want to hook a Tarpon, you’re going to need to sharpen those out of the box hooks. 

Many newbies lose the Tarpon because they try to set the hook too soon out of excitement. Before you set the line, make sure the bait is set in the Tarpon’s mouth well.

Truthfully, it doesn’t matter how good you are at fishing for Tarpon. Most of these bad boys are going to get away because of those bony mouths we talked about earlier.

Landing a Tarpon

When you finally get a solid hook on your Tarpon, you’re in for the fight of your life. That Tarpon is going to jump, flip and rattle those gills. When the fish is getting ready to leap out of the water, lower the tip of your rod and push it toward the fish to give the line slack. 

Once you’ve worn the Tarpon out, it will roll on its side most of the time. Use a short lip gaff, pass it through the fish’s lower lip and hold the fish while someone takes the hook out of the Tarpon’s mouth or clips the leader. Make sure you clip the leader as close as possible during this process.

Now you’ve landed a Tarpon! Congratulations. You’ve done what most people could only wish to do.

Are you ready to go at it for real?

You’re A Tarpon Fishing Machine

Now that you know more about how to fish for Tarpon, why stop learning there? We have many other articles that can help you with fishing and beyond. Browse our site, find your favorite section, drop a bookmark and come back soon for more great reads.