Tarpon, also known as the silver king, are split into two species. Tarpon that live in the Atlantic are called the Megalops atlanticus, and another that lives in the Indian and Pacific Oceans are named the Megalops cyprinoides. These are prehistoric fish that have been around for an estimated 125 million years.
Both species have long bodies with upturned faces and lobed fins. In the water, they’re a dark blue or greenish-black. However, when they are pulled out, they have very shiny silver scales. They are noted for their strength, fickle eating habits, and being highly acrobatic.
Adult tarpon reach maturity at a size of about five to six feet long which is about 100 to 150 pounds. It takes between 13 and 16 years for most tarpon to hit this milestone, but some live up to 50 years in the wild. The average tarpon that is hooked is between 25 and 80 pounds. In captivity, the oldest tarpon ever recorded was a female kept in the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois, which lived for 63 years.
The IGFA all-tackle world record is 286 pound, 9-ounce tarpon landed on March 20th, 2003 by Max Domecq. It was caught off the coast of Rubane, Guinea-Bissau, Africa.
Atlantic tarpon can be found from Virginia to Brazil, in the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico. The Indo-Pacific tarpon can be found near southeast Asia, Japan, Tahiti, Australia, and the eastern African coast.
Tarpon can be found feeding in shallow saltwater and brackish environments. These fish spawn offshore where their eggs free-float until they hatch. From there, they venture into nearshore waters and shallow flats. Tarpon migrate throughout the year to find food and chase warm tropical and subtropical waters. The most well-known place to target Tarpon is in Florida, especially the Florida Keys, where they are known to patrol the flats, canals, and bays.
Tarpon feed at dawn and dusk, making the best time to fish for them early in the morning and late in the afternoon. Within the United States, they can be found on the Gulf Coast from May to July and April through June on the Atlantic Coast. Outside of the country in Mexico and Costa Rica, the tarpon fishing is great throughout the year.
The best place to target tarpon is when they are more visible in shallow waters like the flats. These large predators can easily be targeted in shallow water by sight casting. Anglers fishing for tarpon on the flats have two options for sight casting. The first option is to use traditional tackle while throwing artificial or live bait. For anglers that want the ultimate challenge, fly fishing for tarpon is a rewarding experience. For natural bait, use mullet, pinfish, crabs, or shrimp, but you can also cast artificial lures. Tarpon are easily spooked by loud noises, such as loud boat motors, so using an electric motor or poling is recommended.
If you can, hiring an experienced guide can be extremely helpful. They will be able to assist you in both catching and landing a beautiful tarpon. A guide will be able to advise you on when to apply pressure or relax the line and whether to chase the fish or hold the position.
“Bowing to the king” is no joke, as tarpon are tenacious fighters. When they jump, it is vital to quickly lower the tip of your rod. This will help to keep your line from breaking against the tarpon.
Tarpon are well known not to be good to eat. They have many small bones that make the fish hard to clean and have smelly and distasteful meat.
Updated on December 6, 2022
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