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Tarpon Capital of the World

Named #1 on the list of The World's 14 Top Tarpon Spots by Sport Fishing magazine.

Each spring, anglers armed with rods and with dreams converge on Charlotte Harbor and Boca Grande Pass, often referred as the —Tarpon Capital of the World”, with hopes of reeling in a tarpon, a spectacular game fish known for putting on challenging fights with the thrill lasting a lifetime. Also known as the —Silver King” this species of fish usually visits Charlotte Harbor’s waters between April and October.

Weighing in on Tarpon

The average tarpon weighs between 90 and 130 pounds, but catches over 200 pounds are not unknown. Recent fish tales claim a 276 pound tarpon was caught in Boca Grande Pass in 2004. The largest tarpon caught and released alive during a tournament happened during the 2009 Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (http://www.ptts.tv/) when Team Miller’s Ale House led by Capt. Artie Price landed a 217-pound silver king. The Florida state record for tarpon caught is 243 pounds, reeled in by Gus Bell in Key West in 1975 and the world record of 286 pounds was landed in 2003 by Max Domecq in Rubane, Guinea-Bissau (Source: http://research.myfwc.com/features/view_article.asp?id=25956).

Thousands of tarpon congregate in Charlotte Harbor and Boca Grande Pass as they migrate to and from their spawning grounds. Several tarpon tournaments take place here including the multi-week Professional Tarpon Tournament Series and World's Richest Tarpon Tournament sponsored by the Boca Grande Chamber of Commerce. It’s estimated about 5,000 tarpon are landed each spring in Boca Grande Pass alone.

Notable Tarpon Anglers

Dating back to the mid-1800s, tarpon fishing was a popular pastime for the wealthy. Over the years, such notables as Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Frederick Remington, J.P. Morgan, the Vanderbilts, and even the nefarious Al Capone fished Charlotte Harbor’s bountiful waters. Conservationist and outdoorsman President Teddy Roosevelt fished Charlotte Harbor in March 1917 and while records do not indicate whether he caught a tarpon, he did land 16-foot manta ray. More recently, Gasparilla Island has been host to famous fishing enthusiasts including President John F. Kennedy and Presidents George H. and George W. Bush.

Tarpon Fishing Basics

Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands makes an ideal base for a tarpon fishing vacation. There are more than 25 professional fishing guides for hire who know their quarry’s habits and hiding places. Advantages of hiring a professional fishing guide include:

  • No need to purchase a saltwater fishing license. A professional fishing guide has a valid vessel license which means no need for you to purchase one. If you’ll want to keep a tarpon, however, you will need to purchase an additional tarpon tag which can be obtained by the local tax collector’s office, though keep a tarpon unless pursuing an IGFA record.
  • No need to bring your own equipment. Guides will have the appropriate tackle and will know which bait to use in order to land a silver king;
  • More time on the water will be spent fishing rather than guessing where the fish are biting. Guides know the best spots which means more time angling rather than driving the boat from point to point;
  • Florida fishing regulations change periodically and a professional guide will be up to date on current regulations. Fishing with a guide prevents you from fishing illegally.

If you are a —"do-it-yourself" fisherman there are a few additional things to know about tarpon fishing in Boca Grande Pass:

  • A saltwater fishing license is required to fish within Charlotte Harbor. Saltwater fishing licenses are available for a 12-month period for Florida residents and non-Florida residents can purchase a 3 or 7 day license or one valid for 12 months. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission sells licenses by phone and online or saltwater licenses can be purchased at any county tax collector’s office.* As of Sept. 2013, new regulations have been imposed to better protect the species.  A single tag (per person/per year) may be purchased to harvest a tarpon, and is only to be used in pursuit of an IGFA world record.
  • During the months of April, May and June, seasonal tarpon fishing regulations take effect in Boca Grande Pass. These include:
    • Maximum of three fishing lines in the water from one boat at a time while fishing for all species;
    • Breakaway gear, such as bob, float, weight, lure, or spoon affixed to a fishing line or hook with wire, line, rubber bands, plastic ties, or other fasteners designed to break off when a fish is caught, is prohibited. (Source: FWC)
    • It is illegal to possess more than one tarpon at a time per vessel and there must be a tarpon tag affixed.
    • Please visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website for up to date regulations on the species.
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