The Silver Kings, the prehistoric Goliaths of the flats, the airborne acrobats, the fly fishing giants – yes, we're talking about the elusive Tarpon, one of the most prestigious game fish. The Tarpon fishing Florida has to offer is, needless to say, off the hook (pun intended). Silver Kings populate inshore waters throughout the state, from Jacksonville Beach to the Panhandle, with hot spots being the Keys, the Everglades, the Fort Myers area, Charlotte Harbor, and, of course, Boca Grande, Tampa Bay, and the Homosassa Bay.
Where to Go
Many hardcore anglers will agree that the "Sunshine State" has the best Tarpon fishing in the world, and deciding on the perfect location will depend on the season and your preferences.
Toward the end of the 19th century, Boca Grande
was discovered as a Tarpon epicenter and earned the reputation it holds to this day: the “Tarpon Capital of the World.” Located at the mouth of Charlotte Harbor, it’s known for having the densest concentration of Tarpon on the planet. In addition to Charlotte Harbor, Pine Island Sound is also known as one of Boca Grande Tarpon hot spots, exploding with pinfish and crabs, their favorite food during summer months while adult fish are migrating. Juvenile Tarpon can be found year-round in mangrove creeks near the sound. Lighthouse and Coast Guard holes are especially popular among anglers.
Tarpon fishing in the Keys is known for being out of this world, and for a great reason. Having access to both Atlantic and Gulf fisheries, these waters bring diversity and bountifulness. And the best spots in the Keys? Islamorada is at the top of the list for many avid anglers, especially fly fishermen. Here you can catch both giants and baby Tarpon near mangrove islands. Not to mention the proximity of Flamingo in Everglades National Park. Like Islamorada
, Key West
Harbor is known for the abundance of fish and experienced guides. In addition to unforgettable fishing, these locations are also very tourist-friendly.
If you want to get away from the crowds, the Marquesas Keys are a great choice due to the combo of Tarpon abundance and the lack of fishing pressure. If you want to land these monsters on the fly, Florida Keys fly fishing guides will usually recommend Rabbit Key, Twin Keys, Nine Mile Bank, Man O’ War Basin, and other basins of the Gulf.
Everglades City/Ten Thousand Islands
The fishing epicenters of Everglades City
are located northwest of Everglades National Park and south of Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge. The Everglades area is known as the alpha and omega of Tarpon fishing, a place where it all started and where it all ends for many Tarpon fanatics. The mouth of the Caloosahatchee River is where Tarpon fishing was born in 1885 when the first specimen was reeled in. This is also one of the best places for winter fishing – thanks to the Florida Power & Light plant, these waters are much warmer than those nearby. The waters of Everglades City and the Ten Thousand Islands hold giant migratory Tarpon during summer months, but resident fish can be caught year-round.
If you want a perfect combo of fishing and tourism, head to the Miami
area. The Atlantic waters near Biscayne Bay are exploding with Tarpon year round, with the shipping channel known as Government Cut being especially productive. The cooling canals of the Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station are a great choice for winter Tarpon fishing – this is where schools of Tarpon gather during colder months.
The Nature Coast of Florida is famous for monster Tarpon, and Homosassa
is especially popular among hardcore anglers looking to achieve their personal best. This is where countless world records were set, all thanks to the waters being abundant with migratory Tarpon's favorite food – forage fish, crabs, and shrimp. Exploring these breathtaking marshes will be a treat for nature lovers and anglers of all preferences. The area south of the Homosassa River is especially popular among fly anglers looking to land monster Tarpon.
If you're looking for some of the best Florida Tarpon fishing, the Tampa Bay
area should definitely be on your list. Tampa Bay is one of the prime Silver King destinations on Florida’s Gulf Coast, exploding with migratory Tarpon during summer. Sunshine Skyway Bridge is one of the most popular hot spots, where schools of gigantic Tarpon can be found.
The waters of St. Augustine are some of the most productive Tarpon fisheries in northern Florida. Here you can target gargantuan Silver Kings famous for putting up great fights just a couple of miles from shore. You can also catch them in the ocean inlets, rivers, and canals throughout the year.
How to Fish
The most efficient and popular techniques for landing the Silver King in Florida are conventional casting, spinning, and last but not least, fly fishing. You'll be using 7–8′ rods for spinning and 11–13 wt rods for fly fishing. If you're fly fishing in rivers and canals, go for a 5–7 wt rod.
When it comes to fly fishing, every area has its own distinguished styles and methods. Black-and-purple flies are especially popular in the Florida Bay, while the Atlantic side of the Keys will see you using chartreuse variants. The color of the fly should be contrasted to the color of the bottom – use warm colors when fishing the areas with sandy floors and green/blue for bottoms with darker grass.
And what about bait? Live, cut, and artificial baits are efficient, depending on the fishery and other circumstances. Fishing inshore areas and passes of Fort Myers usually includes menhaden, crabs, and herring, as well as trolling or casting plugs near Sanibel Causeway.
Tarpon swimming near banks and flats of the Keys are big fans of artificials, such as jigs and swimbaits, but they also like shrimp and crabs. A signature Keys technique is anchored live baiting near bridges using crabs or mullet under a cork.
Homosassa and Crystal River are known for diving cut mullet and plugs, while Tampa Bay Tarpon fishing near channel edges is all about cut ladyfish, menhaden, and mullet. Slow trolling pinfish, vertical jigging, and live baiting are generally very popular in the Boca Grande area.
Casting soft plastics and topwater plugs is a way to go in the Miami area, along with using silver mullet and live crabs.
When to Go
Every season is Tarpon season in Florida. Residential Tarpon can be caught year-round, but if you're looking to land a monster migrator, you'll usually be focusing on late spring and summer months, depending on the location.
The best monster Tarpon fishing in the Keys happens during May and the beginning of June, and the same goes for Boca Grande, Tampa Bay, and Homosassa. April–June is great for Tarpon fishing in the Everglades, while St. Augustine offers productive fishing for the Silver King from June to September.
If you're itching to land the Tarpon of your dreams, just grab a rod and head to where it all began. Florida invites you to explore its timeless waters and break some Silver King records.