Fishing for Tarpon in the Florida Keys? Timing is everything!

220 pound tarpon caught in the Florida Keys


Florida Keys Tarpon feed primarily at night. Unlike the other sought after flats fish the Bonefish , the Permit and the Redfish . The Tarpon is best fished at dusk and daybreak or during the night time.

You’ll need to get a special stamp along with your Florida Saltwater Fishing License should you think of killing one. This is really discouraged. They’re not an edible fish.

Here's where you can find out more about State Fishing License and Regulations for the back country and the reef.

These fish grow slowly. They don’t even get to sexual maturity until they’re around 13 years old. I have seen some really big ones around the Florida Keys. I wonder how old they are?

Tarpon Florida Keys

Most Tarpon caught around the Keys weigh from 50 pounds to more than 200 pounds. My neighbor Arthur caught a 198-pounder two years ago in the back country. It was in a channel between two mangrove islands. He caught it on a spinning rod with light tackle.

They like to hang out in the deeper channels that run between the flats and the channels that run under the bridges of the Florida Keys. They face into the current waiting for dinner to be delivered. Their lower jaw sticks our like a bad over bite. When they catch the fish, they crush it with their jaws.

Live Pinfish, Mullet or Crab are the best baits to use. These can be purchased at the local Bait and Tackle Stores. You’re going to need to use heavy tackle to land a Tarpon. The hook needs to be really sharp.

When you get your bait fish on the hook, let him out a little ways. Next you’re going to need a float that will break away when they hit the bait fish. We use a piece of Styrofoam and just wrap the line around it a few times. You’ll need to keep your rod tip up. When the fish strikes, let the rod tip down. When the line is tight, set the hook. Give a few short jerks to get the hook through his boney mouth.

Back Country channel with Tarpon This is when the fish begins to run then leap into the air repeatedly. He jumps and lands on each and every part of his body. It’s a good idea to have a quick release anchor. You’re gonna need to follow the fish. You’re in for a long fight. It just may come down to who gets tired first. The fish or the angler? One very important rule to remember, when the fish jumps you bow. This means dip your rod tip down. This help to keep him from throwing the hook.

When you do get him to the boat. Revive him and release him as quickly as possible to assure he has a quick recovery. Hammerhead Sharks are known to be in the area of migrating Tarpon and chase after them when they are released and tired.

I’ve known guys who have taken the fish a mile or so away from a lurking Hammerhead Shark before releasing him back into the water.

April thru the middle of July is the migrating Tarpon season here in the Florida Keys. We have small resident ones here all year round. I see them right here in the canal where I live.



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