Tarpon can be found along the entire coast of Florida from Pensacola to Key West and up to Fernandina Beach. These fish are well known for growing into giants, being picky eaters, and incredibly acrobatic fights. The experience of catching a tarpon is exhilarating and has landed them on the bucket list of many anglers around the world. The tropical climate and warm currents that surround the Florida Coast make it an ideal place for tarpon to call home and the perfect place for anglers to chase them.
Tarpon can be found feeding in shallow saltwater and brackish environments. Tarpon migrate throughout the year to find food and chase warm tropical and subtropical waters. This means tarpon are only available for part of the year when they are passing through the area. The only exception is the Keys where tarpon are around throughout the year. In Florida, some of the best spots to target tarpon are the canals, bays, and backwaters, but the flats are the ultimate place to find one.
Flats are found in the vicinity of mainland or barrier island coastlines across the world. These aquatic environments are characterized by very shallow water and are highly sensitive to tides. Often during low tides, they drain entirely and be left fully exposed. Flats have low oxygen levels because the water is extremely shallow and is easily heated by the sun. This means that the organisms that live there must be able to tolerate the extreme environment. For this reason, most fish species only visit the flats to feed before retreating to deeper, more oxygen-rich, water.
From Isolated atolls in the middle of the Pacific Ocean to Key West, all the way back to the Seychelles, the intertidal flats ecosystems are some of the most beautiful and dynamic aquatic habitats on the planet. This holds especially true for the coastal seagrass flats in Florida. Aquatic plants help keep the water on the flats crystal clear while providing shelter for all kinds of marine life including snails, shrimp, crabs, and a variety of baitfish. This array of food sources attracts an abundance of predatory sportfish so It’s no surprise that locations like this are sought after by so many outdoor enthusiasts.
Tarpon are big fish and prefer deeper flats that sit in three to ten feet of water. Occasionally they can be seen crossing sandy flats, but they prefer to spend their time hanging out in grassy flats or mangroves. Tarpon prefer these conditions because they can grow to over 200 pounds and require more room to swim. Also called the “Silver King,” their dorsal fin is usually a darker shade of silver that blends in well with the vegetation. Most Tarpon don’t stay in the same place too long and are constantly on the move.
Tarpon feed at dawn and dusk, making the best time to fish for them early in the morning and late in the afternoon. On the Gulf side of Florida, the peak tarpon bite runs from May to July, and June through August on the Atlantic Coast. While tarpon are available year-round in the Keys, the best time to catch them is April through June.
Updated on December 6, 2022
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