If you’re the sort of person who likes to set ambitious goals you might be looking for the mighty Atlantic Tarpon (megalops atlanticus…. or “Atlantic Big Eyes”). These big beautiful fish are not considered good to eat, thank god, but they are wonderful fighting fish who can give an angler the fight of their lifetime!
Tarpon, known fondly as the Silver King among flats anglers, is common throughout the Gulf of Mexico and especially in the coastal waters around Florida, the Florida Keys, and throughout the the Florida Keys. Flats fishermen (and women) consider Florida to have the best Tarpon fishing in the world – and not surprisingly 29 of the world records for Tarpon were achieved in Florida.
Tarpon are BIG – ranging from one to eight feet long, or sometimes more, when relatively mature and weighing as much as 250 pounds! In the waters off Key West, you’ll routinely find Tarpon catches between 40 to 150 lbs. , May and June being the height of the migration. Depending on the tackle being used it not unrealistic to expect a catch a tarpon weighing 100 lbs. or more.
Tarpon migrate and spawn throughout the spring and early summer in the Lower Keyes. Ambush points can be set up along their migration routes, they love eating flies but can be caught on spin reels too. Small juvenile tarpon can be found through the summer and fall closer to the mangrove islands This is one of the reasons they are considered easy ‘sight fishing’. Strikes are spectacular, you’re really in for a fight and the fish you’ve got on the hook is tough, long-winded — and probably older that you are; tarpon are known to live as long as 80 years.
For many fish, once you get the hook set in their mouth, that’s 90% of the game but doesn't mean its adone deal. Sixty per cent of all tarpon will jump off. As a tarpon strikes your fly, bait or lure, you’ve got to be sure to make a couple of quick short jabs to set the hook firmly in their jaw. Tarpon can and will jump at ANY time during the fight, so be prepared to "Bow to the King", which means lowering your rod tip. It is such a violent jump that if you don't provide a little relief buy lowering your tip, ugly things can and will happen. Pulling your hook or popping your leader. Remember, these fish are big!
They’re trying to shake that hook out of their mouth… and that’s exactly what happens if the angler doesn’t give the tarpon enough line when they jump. Tarpon are smarter than you might expect a fish, pound for pound the strongest inshore species.
Be sure and bring your camera; the most majestic thing about tarpon is those magnificent leaps up into the air. Obviously you’ll be ‘busy’ if there’s another angler along, or the guide has a hands free moment you’ll want to capture those leaps. For many anglers, catching a tarpon can be a memory of a lifetime. You’ll enjoy it.