Southwest Florida has the shore line to prove why this is the best area anywhere in the country to catch them. The shallow and sloping floor of the Gulf of Mexico makes it the perfect home for tarpon. Also called “The Silver King,” they can grow to more than 7 feet long and weigh up to 290lbs.
The story goes the first one ever caught was off of Sanibel Island on the bay side, now known as Tarpon Bay. This caused a huge amount of anglers to head down south to areas such as Fort Myers and Boca Grande in pursuit of their own “Silver King”.
There are several popular spots for catching these kings. The shores of Fort Myers are well known and close to them is Gasparilla Island, particularly the town of Boca Grande, one of the most recognized locations in the world for tarpon fishing. The months of May and June are the best times to find tarpon.
Boca Grande Pass lies south of the area and carries deep water inhabited by not only tarpon but very large sharks as well. The surrounding waters are full of rich nutrients from nearby harbors that flow into the Gulf and into passes, such as Boca Grande. The flowing water is often times full of “pass crabs,” a tarpon’s favorite food. When timed right, anglers can have multiple opportunities to hook and land the elusive Silver King as they feast upon the thousands of crabs flowing through the areas passes.
Tarpon are known to be jumpers. They will leap out of the water again and again, up to ten feet in the air, and vigorously flail about when hooked.
After you see your hooked fish rising to the surface of the water, the angler should slack the line by bending at the waist, dropping the rod tip to point straight at the airborne tarpon. If done properly you will be being doing what is known as “bowing to the King” and greatly increase your chance of bringing your fish boat side.
Circle hooks are to be used as well, as they have bone-hard mouths make it challenging to hook them. As far as bait goes, use live shrimp, crab, live or dead sardines, or other live or dead fish. You will most likely find them where the water temperature is between 74 and 88 degrees.
Unless one has bought a Tarpon tag or is going after an IGFA (International Game Fish Association) world record, tarpon is a catch and release fish only. Tarpon are not for eating, as they are filled with bones. These are fish are enjoyable to catch but once landed should be released to fight another day.