Tarpon Fishing in Key West

Key West Sport Fishing and Sailfish, Deep Sea Fishing Charter Boats FL

Summertime is the best time to catch many kinds of fish, from redfish to flounders and even sharks. Unless a catch really tips the scales, most inshore species are not as exciting to catch for seasoned anglers.

A tarpon on the other hand, will give you something to brag about when you catch one. These silver giants can weigh up to 200 pounds and can grow up to 7 feet in length, migrate north along our coast every summer.

Like blue marlin for the offshore crowd, tarpons represent the ultimate fishing success for inshore guides and anglers. They are difficult to find, hook, and land. Yet every year, a number of experienced guides and obsessed anglers catch and release a lot of tarpon, also known as “silver kings”.

The good thing about tarpon fishing is that you don’t need to use a big, expensive boat – just about any center console, skiff or even john boat is enough for the trip. If you can make it to one of the coast’s many inlets until early October, you have a good chance of catching tarpon.

Where to find Tarpon

Anglers usually catch tarpon in the deep holes behind barrier islands. The most catchable ones, mostly the 60 to 100 pounders can be found feeding on sandbars around inlets.

You may want to anchor up near areas where menhaden or mullet are getting washed over sandbars when fishing an inlet. Tarpons usually feed best in 4 to 6 feet of water. When conditions are too rough to fish an inlet, you may want to shift your efforts to deep holes.

When fishing around sandbars, we prefer to use mostly float rigs and free-lined baits. But when fishing deep holes and around jetties, a few bottom rigs to the mix will be added.

 Rigs and Baits

A heavy, 7-foot spinning and casting rods matched with large reels spooled with 50-pound braided mainline is what we use for tarpon fishing. We tie on 6 to 10 feet of 60 pound monofilament as a top-shot leader.

Fighting Big Fish

You will immediately know when a tarpon picks up bait. Since these are really big fish, you may want to leave the rod in the rod holder, with tight drag, until the tarpon jumps or peels line for 10 seconds. It is not a good idea to immediately pick up a rod before the tarpon is firmly hooked.

Once an angler picks up the rod, it is very important to point the rod at the fish when it jumps to create some slack in the line and allow a tarpon to shake its head without breaking the line.

Anglers must rig up a quick-release system for their anchor so they can chase one down if necessary. This is recommended if an angler can’t turn a big tarpon, or if it is headed for structure that could part the line.

Anglers must be extra careful once they have reeled in a big tarpon into the boat. Lip-gaffing a tarpon might injure the fish and could be dangerous for anglers if the fish trashes its head. Hold and control tarpon through its lower jaw since they don’t have teeth. Use gloves to protect your hands.

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