Many species come to mind when discussing BIG fish in Tampa Bay. Eleven thousand charter captains and a myriad of locally-known anglers validify the sheer volume of fish we see annually. But one species in particular sticks out above the rest, and that’s Tarpon.
Research shows that Tarpon have been swimming our oceans since prehistoric times. Growing more than eight feet, 250lbs, and fifty years of age, this giant fish is one you have to see to believe. And once you’ve seen it, you won’t forget it.
Tampa Bay is one of the few places in the world where Tarpon migrate in such large numbers on such a consistent annual basis. From their transparent larvae stage to their surface-splashing breach, it’s hard to miss the “silver kings” when they make their presence known.
May through July is the height of the Tarpon season. The bloom of live bait brings them into our bay for feeding and breeding. Resident Tarpon can be found all year, however, in rivers and estuaries throughout the area.
Tarpon utilize the flats, feeding as they move with the tides. You’ll therefore find them in shallows of four to five feet as well as some of our deepest holes ranging into the ninety-foot range.
Because Tampa Bay is an estuary for many species, including Tarpon, you’ll find them flowing in and out with the tides as the seasons see fit. They are comfortable with what locals refer to as the “tarpon triangle,” and we start seeing them in Longboat Key as they head toward Anna Maria Island and the Skyway Bridge. They enjoy the abundance of food the shallows bring along with the changing terrain, structure, and water depths.
It is said that ten percent of anglers catch ninety percent of the fish here in Tampa Bay. That’s because the precision and dedication necessary to follow each moving species is a full-time job. With a select few charter captains catching Tarpon in the bay, it’s wise to hook up with one who can put you on fish – or at least lead you to the right spot. Our very own Captain Erik from Fishlikeus.com is one of them and for those in for a real adventure, catching Tarpon from a kayak is a fish story worth repeating.
For the do-it-yourselfer looking to hook one of these bad boys on your own, you’ll want to consider bait, size, and season in your planning. Prime live bait includes threadfins, menhaden, pinfish, and blue crabs. From there, most move onto soft plastics for artificial bait. Which bait you use will depend on the time of year, water clarity, tides, and types of bait available.
Tarpon are smart, spook easily, and can see better than almost any fish out there. They can be predictable and catchable with the proper guidance from local professionals. Join us at Fisherman’s Cove Resort and come steps closer to catching your first Tarpon by being in the right place, at the right time, with the right people.
We look forward to seeing you, and photos of your Tarpon soon!