Tarpon fishing is the ultimate challenge for the elite sport fisherman. Key West offers some of the best Tarpon fishing to be found almost anywhere. In the winter months, sometimes as early as February, Tarpon begin showing in the deeper channels of the “ship’s harbor”. Here they remain unless a very cold front drives them to warmer waters of the edge of the Gulfstream where the await the warmer waters of the incoming tide.
When the harbor warms again and the Tarpon reclaim the channels once more, the word goes out among the fishermen. This is the best time for novice anglers to try their skills against the “Silver King”. Fishermen begin chumming, using fresh by catch from the shrimp boats, drawing the huge fish behind their boats where a Mojarra or other small dead bait is presented to the now feeding fish by dropping it back in a dead drift manner, with the reel in free-spool.
When the subtile strike is detected, the angler engages the spool and begins to reel. Using circle hooks, the fish is usually hooked in the corner of the mouth. The first thing that the fish usually does is leap high into the air in an effort to dislodge the hook. After that, each fish has it’s own personality. Some spend more time in the air that in the water. Still others stay deep and never show themselves, except rolling at the surface for air, until the end of the fight. Anchoring in shallow channels and using live bait can be a very exciting way to fish Tarpon as well.
A surface strike is very visual and the first leap is often immediately after the strike. The reel is in gear and the rod is often in a rod holder when the strike occurs and the take is commonly a surface crashing strike, followed by a lot of aerobatics. If it is your first Tarpon, ask the captain for a souvenir scale to place in the frame with your photograph. It doesn’t hurt the fish in any way. For Tarpon on fly rod check out the Flats Fishing page.
Tarpon Fishing Photos
Tarpon Fishing Locations
The Dry Tortugas is the last, great vestige of sportfishing in the northern hemisphere. This remote group of islands are surrounded by more than ten thousand square miles of fishing resources that have remained relatively untapped due to the time that it would take to cover this vast and remote area.
Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico, for our purposes, begins at the North side of the flats, along the lower Florida Keys and includes a portion of the Florida Bay, continuing to the West and North of the Dry Tortugas, encompassing more than 5000 square miles of fishable water within range of our hi-tech, offshore boats.
Key West offers the sportfishing enthusiast the largest variety of gamefish in the world. Other locations will argue that they are the sportfishing capital of the world, or the best for this species or that particular fish. There are more “I.G.F.A. World Records” from the waters of Key West than the next closest, several locations combined.
Marquesas is a magical word that conjures thoughts of tropical breezes, emerald green water surrounding a tropical island paradise. A ring of islands surrounded by acres and acres of pristine water and shallow flats where giant Tarpon, Permit, Bonefish, Mutton Snappers, great Barracudas and monster Sharks of all kinds prowl the flats.