Florida has been an epicenter for Tarpon fishing since the earliest of days in the sportfishing world. In this, most famously, is the fishing in Boca Grande, Florida. However, when May, June, and July roll around, Tampa Florida becomes part of the massive yearly migration that takes place up the states SW coast. When this happens, Tampa becomes one of the most busy Tarpon fisheries in the state – if not globally.
Even though Tarpon are synonymous with being referred to as the “King’s of the Flats”, or even more commonly know as the “Silver King” – most of the largest fish are actually Queens. When you do talk large Tarpon in particular, fish up to 200lbs can become semi-common. But, the growth rate of Tarpon is extremely slow. So, even when hooking up with one half the size, at 100lbs, odds are you are fighting a 15 year old fish. But even at 15 years old, they are still young as research has shown that wild Tarpon live up to 50 years.
In Tampa, the Tampa Bay estuary is the largest of its kind in the state. Tampa Bay is also home to deep water channels that feed both the flats and backcountry mangrove areas. The Bay is a common grouping area for baitfish and is the residence of some of the most famous of inshore gamefish – Such as, Snook, Redfish, and Sea Trout. Add to this, a steady feed from multiple freshwater sources that end in Tampa Bay (info: pdf), and you have the ingredients for a common stop for Tarpon along the migration route. Since Tarpon can thrive in brackish water, finding them running through Tampa’s inter-coastal waterways that are either fed by Tampa Bay itself or a freshwater source inland, is also a highly common occurrence.
In Tampa in particular night dock light fishing for Snook is one of the most common activities. To kick it up a notch a lot of anglers are finding enjoyment doing this with fly rods. When the migration comes through, these night fishing trips can easily include Tarpon and Snook at the same time – most anglers look for the “green lights” at the docks all along the inter-coastal systems. These lights gather baitfish, and in this – gather these monsters of the inshore fishery.
Tampa also holds year round resident Tarpon. These guys are more along the lines of the 20-50lb range and are generally juveniles taking advantage of the Tampa Bay estuary for protection and food sources. Though, you will see a monster pop up here and there all year long. In the end Tampa Tarpon fishing is definitely on the top of the Tarpon fishing list in regards to places to target them. We highly recommend giving Tampa Bay a fishing trip or two in your lifetime, but only if you’re in to everything that you imagine an inshore fishery should be, as well as have thoughts of catching the “Silver King”.