Only 30 miniutes west of Fort Myers, Florida is the home of the world’s best tarpon fishing. In 1880 Tarpon fishing as a sport was originated on Pine Island. While Tarpon are inedible, they are one of the most sought after sport fish. These fish often exceed 200 pounds. Boca Grande pass, the location of the “Professional Tarpon Tournament Series”, takes 20 minutes by boat to reach from Pine Island.
The preferred bait and rig for Tarpon fishing is live blue crab on 30 pound class spinning gear. A 6 foot length of 80 pound monofilament as a leader is recommended. Tarpon schools can often reach up to 100 fish. Many of the fish will roll at the top of the water. These fish are not generally the biters. Fishing below the surface will capture the hungry ones. The Tarpon will head straight for the top when they realize they are hooked. In an amazing display of aerial acrobatics and tail dancing, the Tarpon will make every attempt to free its self.
In order to find the schools quickly, head across Pine Island sound for Boca Grande Pass just south of Gasparilla Island. Here is where anglers from all over the world gather to catch what is known as the Silver Kings. It is not unusual to find boats packed into a relatively small grouping like seagulls diving on a school of mackerel.
Boca Grande Pass hosts several Tarpon tournaments per year. The Tarpon Anglers Club has a list of the tournament schedules. There is a tournament for everyone; Ladies only, amateur, and professional. The pro series tournament is broadcast worldwide as a 13 week television series.
It is legal to fish for Tarpon year round in Florida. Catch and release is recommended. Keeping a trophy fish for mounting requires a tag which can be purchased online at FloridaSportsman.com. Most charter Captains will suggest a fiberglass fish replica based on weight, length and girth. This alternative is eco-friendly and lasts longer than a regular taxidermist mounted fish.
Charter boats for Boca Grande Pass Tarpon are available in Pine Island, Sanibel Island, and Gasparilla Island. Each location is easily assessable from I-75. Even if you bring your own boat it is a wise idea to charter a half day trip from a reputable guide. Captains will show you the best areas and techniques for capturing the much sought after Silver Kings. This inside information can lead to better catches and less expense searching for the schools.