So You Want to Fish for Tarpon

Tarpon Fishing sunset

Tarpon Season in Florida: Where and When

Tarpon is one of the most popular game fish in Florida. It’s well known for its acrobatics on the end of a line and is capable of jumping up to ten feet out of the water. Their preferred water temperature is in the 74 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit range and they can grow to an enormous size. In fact, the current International Game Fish Association (IGFA) world record is just over 286 pounds. Tarpon is also called Silver Sides, Silver King, or Sabalo (Spanish). Tarpon is edible but people rarely eat them because their meat contains a lot of small bones and it’s reported that they don’t taste very good.

Know Before You Go

A few key things you need to know is that, in the state of Florida, tarpon fishing gear is limited to hook-and-line only and the tarpon is a catch-and-release-only species. Keeping your catch is only allowed if you are going for an IGFA world record and have purchased a Tarpon Tag which is limited to one person per year and costs around $50. You are allowed to temporarily possess a tarpon for photographs and to measure its length and girth. The stipulation is that a tarpon measuring more than 40 inches must remain in the water. For more important information about tarpon fishing in Florida, visit the official Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website.

Florida’s West Coast (From the Everglades to the Panhandle)

Boca Grande is the most famous tarpon fishing location in the world. The best months for fishing here are May and June when people from all over the world come to catch tarpon. The flats surrounding Homosassa Bay and Crystal River are also full of big tarpon May through June. Apalachicola Bay is another good spot, starting in June and running throughout the entire summer.

Lower Keys

The best locations are Key West Harbor, Bahia Honda Bridge, and Marquesas Keys during the month of May through late July, with the exception of Key West Harbor which is full of feeding tarpon a little earlier in the year, January through March.

Upper and Middle Keys

There is a large population of tarpon around the Channel Bridges, Tom’s Harbor, Seven Mile Bridge, and Long Key. Also, look for them near Marathon and Islamorada Key, as well. While they are present near the Keys year-round, peak season runs from mid-March until mid-July.

Atlantic Coast, South of Biscayne Bay

The west coast seems to have the best areas for tarpon fishing. However, Florida’s Atlantic coast has tarpon as well. Specifically the ports and inlets south of Biscayne Bay which offer the best tarpon fishing from January to June.