If you’re in Texas or Florida, you may already know about tarpon fishing and are excited to try your luck at catching the fish. There’s probably nothing more challenging and exciting to fish for in salt bodies of water than a massive tarpon. You won’t be able to find a stronger, bigger, and more acrobatic species. If you want to know how to catch tarpon, you’re in luck!
Read on as we’ll provide you with everything you should know about tarpon fishing.
We may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you when you buy through links on our website.
Learn more about our Amazon affiliate program
What is a tarpon fish? Tarpon fish (Megalops atlanticus) also go by different names such as silver king, Atlantic tarpon, big scale, and abalitsa. The genus Megalops can be traced back to 100 million years from fossil records.
Tarpon are predatory fish that live in fresh and saltwater environments. They’re not prized for their meat but targeted for sport fishing where they’re released quickly after landing.
You may be wondering, what does a tarpon fish look like? Tarpon fish have bright silver-colored bodies that look like torpedoes in the water. They have massive heads and upturned mouths.
Compared to most species of fish, the tarpon have huge scales which are absent from their head. Their mouths open with their lower hinged jaw swinging open quickly, making a vacuum and sucking bait right in.
Tarpon are thin and long, growing bigger than a fully grown human. Their backs are blue-ish or green in color.
Tarpon fish size can come as a shock to those who don’t know about the species. They grow to a gigantic length, at least 7 ft.
How big do tarpon get? They can be over 250 lbs. and 9 ft long. The females with eggs are bigger compared to the males.
Where do tarpon live? In the US, they’re most abundant in southern Florida. They stay there throughout the year as the water temperatures around Florida Keys and Miami are ideal for the fish.
You can also find tarpon fish around Jacksonville in the east coast. As of recently, tarpon have been found far up in Nova Scotia and far down in southern Brazil.
Still, they’re not common in cold places. In northeastern states, such as New Jersey and New York, tarpon are only there during the warmer months.
Tips on How to Catch Tarpon
Learning how to catch tarpon can be difficult for beginners.
Here are some helpful tips of experts you should remember when targeting giant tarpon fish:
Have a Quick-Release Anchoring Tool
This is a must when catching tarpon. This is because as soon as you hook up a tarpon, there’s not much time for you to pull in your anchor. Tarpon fish are incredibly aggressive and they will fight once they’re hooked.
This makes it absolutely essential that you’re staying on top of your catch during the fight. Shallow water anchoring systems are great for when conditions are shallow.
A quick-releasing anchoring tool that you can construct is outfitting an anchor line with a float and carabiner. It will allow you to disconnect quickly when the fish is hooked.
Fish in Low Light Conditions
Although it’s possible to fish for tarpon regardless of the time of day, the fish are typically feeding actively in low light conditions.
You’ll get a tarpon bite half an hour prior to the sunset and as soon as the sun rises. Tarpon will take advantage of the low light as it’s when they can hunt bait effectively and efficiently.
Fish in a Deep Channel During Winter
Most anglers think tarpon can only be caught during summer. But, this is actually not true. You can still catch tarpon in south Florida’s cold snaps where the air temperatures drop 50°F or 10°C and below.
It’s during the cold front that the fish heavily congregate in a deep channel. If you’ll be fishing in deep channels, use artificial lures that are retrieved slowly along the bottom. If tarpon nearby are very hungry, just wait and see that you can catch the fish one after the another.
You can also fish falling tides. Although you can catch tarpon regardless of the phase of the tidal flow, the species are feeding actively on falling high tides.
Bring Small Bay Crabs When Tarpon Fishing
We’ve used a variety of baits when we first tried to fish for tarpon. There’s no other live bait that can catch tarpon consistently than live bay crabs. It’s important, however, to remember that there’s a specific size that’s most effective.
Not all bay crabs can elicit a strike. When you’re in a local bait shop, make sure you select the silver dollar-sized ones.
Get a dozen and you’ll have enough to enjoy a great day out on the water. Just before casting, you should also remember to remove the claws of the bay crabs. This will make the bait even more enticing to tarpon.
Use Various Fishing Techniques
Try switching it up throughout the day. This is because tarpon will switch their feeding habit during the course of the day.
Live bait will work well during low light conditions. When it’s too hot, they will feed on the bottom. Cut bait will work best in such a case.
A bonus tip for catching tarpon: monitor wind conditions. This is because tarpon are known to disappear in rough sea conditions. Light winds are best for a successful tarpon fishing trip.
Tarpon fish teeth aren’t sharp. The consistency of their mouths is like sandpaper but you should still handle them with care as they’re aggressive.
Steer clear when your catch is violently thrashing. Tarpon can accidentally cause injuries to anglers as the fish try to fight even when they’re about to be released.
Tarpon have also jumped on boats and knocked people into the water. Be very cautious and mind the safety of your companions. Of course, remember and apply the best practices for catch-and-release fishing!