Islamorada Tarpon


When we use the term “Tarpon Season” it is in reference to the time when mature Tarpon move into the upper Keys area before spawning. These Tarpon average 100 pounds and are more than fifteen years old. These “migratory” adults first arrive in the month of February and their numbers increase through March and April, with the months of May and June generally considered peak time to fish for and catch them. The early months of March and April are usually less productive because of the weather, BUT April can be GREAT Tarpon fishing when the weather is warm & calm. Frontal systems are still moving through the Keys during these months bringing cool, unsettled and windy weather, not to the liking of the Tarpon. The Tarpon’s favorite water temperature is between 75 and 85 degrees, and for that reason the months of May and June are the best time to catch the large migratory adults. These fish are considered to all be females and weigh 100 pounds plus, with males weighing between 70 and 90 pounds. During the month of June and continuing into July these huge fish begin their offshore migration to spawn in the open sea. During the months of July and August most of the migratory Tarpon that remain in the upper Keys area are in the 60 to 90 pound range, but there are still many fish over 100 pounds to be caught.


Early season Tarpon fishing tackle needs to be stout to set a hook and to fight a large fish. The choice of most guides is a 30 pound conventional outfit using leader from 60 to 100 pounds. Circle hooks are pretty much standard fare these days, and rods are left in the rod holders until hookup.
As for bait, this is when it gets controversial.
Live bait: It is a toss up as to whether the top choice is Mullet or Crab.
The Mullet will really get the Tarpon excited and makes for a sensational bite, with the Mullet flipping to avoid the Tarpon and the Tarpon boiling and thrashing trying to eat the Mullet. With Mullet bait you may be bothered by the toothy Barracuda or Sharks cutting off your hook and bait. Most guides consider the average hook up ratio with Mullet at two or three hooked for five bites, as the Mullet is so agile.
As for Blue Crabs as bait, well the Tarpon love them and can catch them much easier than a live Mullet. Barracuda and Sharks will not bother the Crab and as an added bonus, you may catch a Permit also.