January 31, 2020
Brandon, a young minor league baseball player, decided to visit Florida for the first time since he was a kid with a bunch of his baseball buddies. He was staying with his friend Cole’s family in Tampa and wanted to do a bit of fishing while he was in town. Cole convinced him to try his hand at tarpon fishing. Brandon had fished for bass before, and even experienced an offshore charter when he was younger. But tarpon fishing would be a new experience for this athlete.
So one day in March during the early morning hours, Brandon, Cole, and two other buddies headed out for a day of chasing silver kings. What Cole didn’t realize, was that Brandon seemed to have the magic touch. You see, Cole has been chasing the elusive tarpon most of his life. He knows just how difficult it is to hook a tarpon, let alone land one. He told Brandon all about presentation of bait, and how to set the hook into the tarpon’s hard mouth. The rest, it seemed, would be Brandon’s magic touch.
Believe or not, by the end of the day Brandon – first time tarpon angler, didn’t know anything about tarpon fishing before setting out – landed SEVEN tarpon in that one six-hour trip. Yep… you heard that right: SEVEN. Cole was flabbergasted! Brandon didn’t even realize his luck. No one lands seven tarpon on their first tarpon fishing trip. It’s simply unheard of. And yet, Brandon has become a legend with his friends, and simply shrugs his shoulders with a smirk and insists, “it’s not that hard to land a tarpon.”
For everyone else in the world, landing a tarpon is not an easy feat. They are fast and elusive, with hard mouths that make it difficult to set the hook. Ideally the hook will set in the sides of their mouth and a firm upwards lift of the rod will secure (hopefully) the hook before you’re ready to begin the fight to land your tarpon.
But before we discuss how to catch tarpon, let’s first talk about where to find Tarpon in Florida… and when.
Brandon and crew weren’t just lucky with their timing on their March fishing trip in Tampa. Southwest Florida is one of those places where tarpon are generally found throughout the year, but the bite starts to get hot in March and continues until July. The mouth of Tampa Bay is known as a great spot to cast for silver kings, they like to target their prey here as the tide is going out.
If you happen to be in the Florida Keys, the tarpon bite will be inconsistent from February to March. The tarpon action really starts when the waters warm up a bit in April. Plan your visit during May and June; these are the best months to fish for tarpon in the Florida Keys. Look for them in the backcountry (shallow waters to the north of the Keys) and the nearby flats.
Over on Florida’s East Coast, Mosquito Lagoon and the Indian River Lagoon both have incredible tarpon fisheries. The tarpon migrate from the Florida Keys to the Atlantic Coast, so if you’re not seeing them in the Keys, this is the next best place to look. Prime tarpon fishing starts in late July and runs until September. Mosquito Lagoon has a similar habitat to the Florida Keys, lots of shallow water that the tarpon prefer.
As we mentioned before, tarpon are difficult to catch… but not impossible. That’s what has anglers coming back time & time again. Even if you do get your hook in one, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be successful in reeling it back to the boat. That’s why most people will count how many tarpon they’ve hooked AND how many they’ve landed (and why Brandon’s count of seven landed tarpon really is phenomenal).
If sight fishing with conventional tackle in water over 10 feet, use heavy spinning rods with live bait, soft-plastics, jigs or plugs. Tarpon feed on crustaceans, so a live shrimp or crab offering is a good choice. Live pinfish and mullet are also to be considered. Fly fishing for tarpon is a sport all to itself, and not for the faint of heart. Again, you’ll want a heavy rod (12-weight is recommended) with at least 200 yards of backing, 300 is preferred. Once the hook is set, tarpon will run the opposite direction fast, screaming (and maybe even smoking) your reel in the meantime.
Watch for their explosive acrobatics as they attempt to throw the hook. The angler holding the rod will have their heart jumping with every tarpon jump – this is an adrenaline rush like no other. And you thought fishing was boring?! Not when you fish for tarpon.
Keep in mind, Florida regulations have every angler releasing their landed tarpon. And if your trophy is over 40 inches, keep it in the water while you take a quick picture. The less handling of these silver kings the better for their life expectancy.
No matter what time of year you want to go tarpon fishing, we recommend booking a guide well in advance. Don’t wait until the day or even a week before your trip to reserve your charter; the best guides in the area will be booked up at least a month in advance. FishAnywhere can help you find a local guide, and you can reserve your trip with a deposit.
You may not be like Brandon and land seven tarpon in one trip, but you can still try to be a legend to your friends and attempt an amazing story like this one. Book your tarpon fishing trip today!
Planning a fishing trip?
Find a Fishing CharterSearch Trips