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Tarpon

Megalops atlanticus

Appearance

Illustration of a tarpon showing important characteristics
  • Back is dark blue-green or greenish-black, becoming bright silver on the sides
  • One dorsal fin; last ray of dorsal fin extended into a long filament
  • Very large scales
  • Mouth large and points upward

Similar Species: As juveniles, tarpon resemble ladyfish, E. saurus 

Size: Up to 8 feet (300 pounds) 

Habitat

Primarily inshore fish; adults spawn offshore.

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.

Behavior

Slow-growing, matures at 7 to 13 years of age. Spawn between May and September. Females may lay more than 12 million eggs. Develop into a ribbon-like larval stage.

Tolerate a wide range of salinity. Juveniles commonly found in freshwater.

Gulp air at the surface.

Feed on fish and large crustaceans.

 

Additional Information

Recreational Regulations

Habitat and Fishing Tips: 

Tarpon 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 and you may only do so in pursuit of a Florida state record.         

State Record: 243 lb, caught near Key West