Tarpon, appropriately nicknamed “Silver King” because of its awesome size and color, is considered one on the best game fish in the world. The prized fish is highly sought after due to its great size and its ability to fight for a long period of time. Accompany that with its spectacular leaping ability and you can see why Florida Anglers are obsessed with landing this behemoth battler.
Anglers of all levels eagerly look forward to Tarpon season which usually runs from Mid April to Mid August depending on your location and the their migration. Whether you are with your favorite fishing Guide, on your own boat, on a kayak, or even from land, once you land the Silver King the war begins. You are in for a long strenuous fight that will begin with your reel feverishly losing line only to be interrupted by the fish’s spectacular leaps and jumps. Your heart is pumping both for your effort and for your excitement. You’ve set the hook, bowed at the exact times, fight your best fight, and still on average only 10% of fish hooked are brought to the boat. That is what makes the “Silver King” Florida’s most treasured game fish.
Here are some interesting facts about tarpon.
–On average they grow to 4 to 8 feet in length and 60-280 lbs in weight. The Florida State record is 243lbs on conventional tackle and 203lbs on Fly.
–The lifespan of a tarpon can be longer than 50 years and the oldest tarpon in captivity was over 60 years in age. They have been swimming in the oceans since prehistoric times. (Over 100 million years)
–Their range in our area extends from Virginia to Central Brazil and all through the Gulf of Mexico. Since they can tolerate all types of water and salinity levels and feed on all type of prey, dead or alive, migration is only limited based on water temperature.(72-82 degrees is optimal).
–Tarpon are unusual as they possess a swim bladder which can be used for buoyancy, but mostly to breathe air. Tarpon use a rolling motion on the surface to gulp air. Anglers call this tailing. If a tarpon is denied access to the surface to breathe air it will perish. Tarpon do posses gills like other fish, and some believe it is the swim bladder and ability to gain extra oxygen is what gives them the ability to fight so hard for so long. The acrobatic jumps also allows them access to oxygen during the battle.
–Tarpon have no teeth and their mouths are boney and feel like sandpaper. This mouth structure makes the fish very difficult to hook. They swallow their prey whole. Good examples of this action can be seen at the many “Feed the Tarpon” attractions. Check out Robbie’s Marina in Islamorada. They mainly feed on shrimp, crab, mullet, pinfish, and sardines.
–Tarpon predators are different depending on life stages. Early on they are eaten by other fish and other tarpon. Birds also prey on them when they come to the surface for air. Adult tarpon are prey for sharks, porpoises, alligators and crocodiles. It is not uncommon to see a shark attack a tarpon that is hooked by an Angler. Google or YouTube “shark attacks tarpon” and you will see some amazing videos and read some incredible stories. Check this Shark attacks Tarpon Video.
–Tarpon are recreational fish only so catch and release practice is the rule. They are not considered a food source, unless you are a shark. Tarpon trophy permits are offered and cost 50.00 but even they are not necessary with the recent taxidermy methods.
–Tarpon are nocturnal hunters, so early mornings or late evenings are optimal times to fish for the “Silver King”, but during migration they frenzy anytime of day.
No other species of fish can compare to a tarpon when it comes to strength, acrobatics, size and color. Accompany that with their numbers during migration season, the ease to get to nearby fishing grounds, and number of experienced guides available, the odds of landing one of these prize fish are in your favor. If you haven’t yet, make sure you check this one of your bucket list, because if you do, you will be back year after year.