Throughout the year, the Keys enjoys numerous migrating fish, and the springtime is known for big post spawn Tarpon. From March through June large schools take up residence under most of the Florida Keys Deep water bridges.
Fishing for Tarpon in the Keys is like nothing else! Tarpon “aka” The Silver King, is considered by many to be the King of all inshore game fish, their big…but not to big, very strong, have tremendous leaping ability and great endurance.
Tarpon are considered prehistoric and have had a long time to perfect their way of life, and their tough-as-nails fighting ability.
They have been around 125 million years, around the time the age of the dinosaur was coming to an end.
The Tarpon’s rudimentary lung, the only fish to have one, allows it to gulp air at the surface, and to survive in oxygen-depleted water.
They migrate and spawn offshore, and their eel-like larvae has to fight for existence on their journey back inshore.
After a few months of rapid growth, the larvae change form and take on the unmistakable appearance of juvenile tarpon, complete with oversize eyes and mirror-like scales.
The juveniles head for the estuaries, with predators not far behind, instinctively knowing they will be safe, only when they reach waters so stagnant that their enemies can’t survive there.
In the clear waters of Key West, you see a school of tarpon heading your way. Sunlight shines off their mirror-like body, they gulp air with their huge heads, and each fish seems to be bigger than you.
Sometimes you don’t know whether to reach for your fishing rod, or a life preserver. YES, they are that intimidating!
You wonder, Is it possible to land that thing. Anglers do land them, but only a small percentage are landed. Of 10 encounters with anglers, tarpon wins probably 8 of them.
The average tarpon you will encounter in the Keys is around 75 lbs, and if it ran straight straight out instead of exhausting itself with towering leaps, landing it would be nearly impossible.
And boy how they jump! Usually, the tarpon feels the hook, and takes to the air repeatedly. Its jumps are sometimes 10 feet in the air with wild abandonment, a creature propelling itself from its own environment, into to a strange one with no thought of the consequences. A true gladiator!!!!
Heavy Tackle Is A Must
Key West fishing gear consists of Floating a live bait or using cut bait on the bottom, and a quick-release anchoring system is the most reliable technique. Although anglers in small boats, or from shore can catch Tarpon on standard bait casting tackle. They hit jigs, crank baits, soft plastic baits, and many of the lures used in fresh and salt water.
Many anglers would say that the number one technique, both for challenge and excitement, is taking Tarpon with fly rods in clear water. Sight fishing for tarpon combines the most exciting aspects of hunting and fishing.
Many years ago fishing in New England for Bluefish and Stripers, I would always dream of fishing for the Silver King down in the keys.
Even after all these years…in my book, the Florida Keys Tarpon is still the ultimate gamefish