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Tarpon: Megalops atlanticus

Regulations Gulf and Atlantic State Waters

Minimum Size Limit: None. Tarpon over 40 inches MUST remain int he water

Daily Bag Limit: Tarpon is a catch-and-release only fishery. One tarpon tag per person per year may be purchased when in pursuit of an International Game Fish Association (IFGA) record. Vessel, transport and shipment limited to one fish. 

Boca Grande Pass Regulations

Jig head and body

Fishing with gear that has a weight attached to a hook, artificial fly or lure in such a way that the weight hangs lower than the hook when the line or leader is suspended vertically from the rod is prohibited when fishing for any species year-round within Boca Grande Pass. If this gear is on board a fishing vessel while inside the boundaries of the Pass, it cannot be attached to any rod, line or leader and must be stowed. Natural bait is not considered to be a weight. If the jig fishes in an illegal manner it is prohibited. Any jig that allows the attached weight to slip down the shank so that it hangs lower than the hook while the line or leader is suspended vertically from the rod is prohibited, and must be stowed so it is not readily accessible.

If the weight can slip down the shank to the bottom of the hook, as demonstrated in this video, it is prohibited.

During the months of April, May and June, no more than three fishing lines may be deployed from a vessel at any one time.

During the months of April, May and June, no person shall use, fish with, or place in the water any breakaway gear.

Learn more about recent regulation changes by reading our Frequently Asked Questions.

Unsure if the gear is prohibited? Call the regional office at 863-648-3200.

Tarpon Jig Prohibited Example

(NOTE: This video has no audio.)

Boca Grande map

Map of Boca Grande Pass

Several buoys marking Boca Grande Pass were moved by the U.S. Coast Guard in 2016 to better align with the shifting channel. One buoy specifically (Flashing Red Buoy #12) was a reference point marking the boundaries of Boca Grande Pass for the purposes of specific gear restrictions. Red buoy #12 was removed and replaced with a new buoy (Charlotte Harbor Channel LB 6). This new buoy is about a quarter mile East-Southeast of the old buoy.  Please note that due to this buoy change, the boundaries of Boca Grande Pass have also changed.

 

Other Regulations and Information

Gear Requirements:

  • Legal Gear: hook and line only.
  • Snagging, snatch hooking, spearing and the use of a multiple hook in conjunction with live or dead natural bait is prohibited

Tarpon handling guidelines 

Tarpon is an iconic saltwater fish. When handled properly, these large fish are more likely to survive and evade predators. Follow these guidelines to ensure tarpon remains the strong and viable fishery it is today.

Know tarpon regulations

  • Tarpon over 40 inches MUST remain in the water unless a tag is used.
  • Tarpon tags may only be used to harvest potential IGFA record-sized tarpon. Taxidermy mounts can be made with length and girth measurements and a photograph.
  • Don't tow a tarpon unless it is necessary to revive it. If you must tow, go as slow as possible while still moving water over the gills.

Keep head and gills in the water

Do not target from bridges or piers - Releasing tarpon from bridges or piers requires specialized lifting gear or cutting the line, which leaves long amounts of line trailing behind the fish.

Use proper tackle

  • Use barbless, single, non-offset circle hooks for natural bait.
  • Use single hooks rather than treble hooks.
  • Use tackle heavy enough to land the tarpon quickly, minimizing exhaustion, and helping the fish avoid predators after release.

Other tips

  • Do not drag tarpon over the gunnel of a boat.
  • Use a dehooking tool.
  • Tarpon smaller than 40” should be supported horizontally when removed from the water. Tarpon larger than 40” must remain in the water.
  • Do not fish for tarpon when large predatory sharks are in the area feeding.  If sharks show up, move to another fishing location.

Habitat and Fishing Tips: 

Tarpon are found throughout Florida’s coastal environment during the summer months. During the winter months, coastal water temperatures in much of the state drop significantly and cause tarpon to concentrate in South Florida. Tarpon, which feed primarily on fish, shrimp and crabs, are powerful, explosive and acrobatic fighters. Tarpon also have great stamina, making them one of Florida’s most challenging and exciting nearshore sportfish. Tarpon can be caught on flies, streamers, floating and diving lures, jigs, live bait and dead bait. The tackle to be used depends largely on the type of bait used, the location and the size of fish being targeted. While tarpon are not a toothy predator, a long, heavy monofilament leader is very important to protect your line from being cut by the gill plate or tail. Tarpon have poor food value and are almost exclusively a catch and release fishery. If you intend to keep a tarpon, you must purchase a tarpon tag in advance.         

 

State Record:

243 lb, caught near Key West

Florida Rule