Southwest Florida Fishing (part three): Tarpon Fishing Every Local Angler’s Favorite Sport

Tarpon fishing southwest Florida

It’s the fish every local angler wants to catch.

It’s not just a fish. It’s bragging rights.

Reeling in a Tarpon is an adventure. They’re big and they fight. But if you catch one, you’ve got a great story to tell.

Tarpons are so much a part of life in Southwest Florida, they are the local high school mascot. That’s right, Charlotte High is also the Home of the Fighting Tarpon. So, when you go out to snag one remember who you’re up against!


The tarpon is a thick-bodied fish with a forked tail. It’s green or blue on top and silver on the sides and underneath. They range greatly in size. The world record is 286 pounds and 9 ounces. Typically, they range from 2-8 feet long and weigh between 75 and 200 pounds.


Tarpons are catch and release fish, as they are not good eating. You can buy a tarpon tag allowing you to keep one fish as a trophy. There is a one tag per person per year limit as well as a one tag per vessel limit.

Where to find tarpon:

You can find tarpon in channels, inlets, river mouths, and large passes. Many anglers fish for tarpon from bridges or piers. The tarpon likes warm water, so they stay south for the winter. In summer, they spread to northern Florida.

Here in Southwest Florida, you can find tarpons in shallow flats and anglers use fly and casting tackle to catch them.

How to Catch:

It seems most Florida anglers have their theories on the best way to reel in a big one. But all agree you need a heavy tackle. For the big ones in passes, channels, and deep bays, you’ll need lines of at least 30 pounds.  On shallow flats use heavier gear. You’ll need at least: 15-pound line on your spinning and casting gear, 10-weight fly outfit with a 16-pound tippet.

Live mullet, small crabs, and pinfish seem to work best when catching tarpon. Although, dead bait works for some.

After you hook a tarpon, let them run a bit. They are powerful fish. If you pull to tightly, they’ll break your line.

Eating tarpon:

Don’t even try it. They are not good eating and you can’t keep them. As stated above, tarpon are catch and release only unless you have a tag.

Upcoming tarpon fishing fun:

This Saturday, June 7th is the Suncoast Tarpon Shootout in Bradenton. Proceeds go to All Children’s Hospital and Heroes on the Water. For more information check out their website.


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