In Florida, there’s fishing – and then there’s tarpon fishing. In case you get the two mixed up, spend some time around a die-hard tarpon angler and you’ll soon understand that fishing for tarpon isn’t just a pastime, it’s an obsession, especially here in St. Pete, FL.
Hooking a tarpon isn’t just about the hook. It’s about the fight, the endurance, the excitement. The angler is the knight pitted against the silver dragon of the water, and the struggle is of epic proportions. Talk to any tarpon fisherman about their passion, and you may see their eyes take on a distant wild and crazy look.
We have a lot of these crazed individuals here in St. Pete because we just happen to be in one of the epicenters of their obsession. While you can find tarpon almost anywhere on the Florida peninsula at some time during the year, real tarpon anglers understand the magic that can be found in a few select sites in our state.
Almost all world records for tarpon come from those caught in the Keys. The Keys is a coral archipelago encompassing hundreds of large and small islands extending for about 180 miles. Surrounded by crystal clear waters, they separate the Atlantic Ocean from the Gulf of Mexico and include the Florida Bay, a shallow estuary off the southern tip of the Florida peninsula.
This area provides a veritable feast for active tarpon populations, some of which are year-round residents. For the others, the spring migration follows them up through the Keys and northward up both coasts. Some of the most well-regarded tarpon fishing sites in the country lie at the edge of the flats surrounding Key West, Key West Harbor, Maraton, and Islamorada.
Government Cut Inlet
Tarpon love deep cuts with rapidly moving water, and they find just that in Government Cut. A man-made deep access channel developed for cargo and cruise ships in and out of the Port of Miami, Government Cut divides Miami Beach from Fisher Island and offers some of the greatest tarpon fishing in the state.
During the full moons between late April through June, tarpon migration happens between Government Cut and the Keys during spawning season, after which the tarpon will head further north.
Tarpon virtually put Boca Grande on the map.
Boca Grande Pass, the pass between Cayo Costa and Gasparilla Island just outside Charlotte Harbor, is a main spawning destination for tarpon from spring until fall when they head back south.
Because of the huge tarpon populations that are often present, Boca Grande has been dubbed the Tarpon Capital of the World. Fishing for tarpon here can be considered a frenzy, with skiffs frantically winding around each other to get a piece of the action. Consequently, it’s a popular area for tarpon-crazed anglers and tournaments drawing them.
We may be a bit biased, but here in St. Pete, FL, Tampa Bay is our personal favorite for some amazing tarpon action. Because they are migratory and move up the coast with water temps and seasonal patterns, they have their peak here in late spring through early summer.
From May through June, peak tarpon season, it’s not uncommon to see hundreds, if not thousands, of tarpon around the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. One of our most successful tarpon sites is Egmont Channel, a deep channel just north of Egmont Key, where tides flush huge amounts of crab from the bay into the channel and out into the gulf. Other great locations for tarpon fishing include John’s Pass, Anna Maria Island, Fort De Soto Park, and the entire stretch of beaches from Longboat Key to Pass-A-Grille.
Tarpon are also prolific in other waters north of Tampa Bay, especially during the full moon in June. These include the areas around Anclote Key and the other barrier islands, St. Joseph Sound, and the mouth of the Cotee River. In addition, Oklahoma Flats south of the Homosassa River is particularly popular for fly fisherman stalking the silver bullets.
Gearing Up for a Day on the Water
If you are one of those anglers who live and breathe tarpon action, you’ll need to gear up. That’s why we exist! At Reef & Reel, we are the largest fishing tackle outfitters in Pinellas County, offering everything for the boating and fishing enthusiast. Let us outfit your day out stalking tarpon in our Florida waters or whatever your successful day on the water looks like. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned angler, we’ve got you covered.