19 Tarpon Fishing Tips: How to Catch Tarpon


Tarpon is one of the most popular fishing species in Florida. Also known as the Silver King, the Tarpon can grow up to 7 feet long and over 200 pounds. They are a brilliant game fish to go after and these are some tarpon fishing tips to help you to hook your first one.

The are extremely acrobatic and often jump fully out of the water during the fight. This means you need to have special tackle to be able to handle their aggressive head shakes – don’t lose a fish because of bad gear.

This article is designed to help beginners learn enough about tarpon behavior to be able to hook their first big Flordia tarpon.

Tarpon Fishing Tips

Tarpon Fishing Tips

  • Peak Tarpon season in Florida is mid March to mid July
  • Pilchards, mullet, and pinfish are popular live bait
  • Live shrimp and blue crabs are also popular as bait. Even a blue crab as small as a silver dollar can be appetizing for a 100lb fish
  • Use a large float above the live bait to keep it upright
  • Some popular artificial lures include gator spoons, rapala lures, and plastic worms
  • Put out 3-4 different types of bait at the start to figure out what the tarpon are hungry for
  • Tarpon have a very bony mouth – additional hook sharpening might be required
  • Wait 1-2 seconds before setting the hook to make sure the tarpon has fully swallowed the bait
  • Be prepared for the fish to break free – fisherman often talk about how many tarpon they jumped rather than landed as it is very difficult to bring them all the way to the boat
  • Tarpon can be hurt by lifting them out of the water with a gaff, so try and remove the hook and release them without removing them from the water
  • Prepare your tackle – tarpon are strong, aggressive fish and you want to have strong enough line and knots so that you don’t lose them when they jump and shake their head
  • Use a heavy fluorocarbon leader to prevent being cut off by the powerful fish head shakes
  • Tarpon like moving water and are often active on the incoming or outgoing tide. They seem to be less affected by dawn and dusk
  • Bow to the King – when the tarpon jumps drop the tip of your rod. This gives them more slack in the line and prevents you from pulling the hook out of their mouth
  • Set your drag to 20-25% of your line strength
  • Tarpon are migratory and prefer stable water temperatures of around 79 degrees
  • Tarpon don’t like windy days
  • Tarpon have sharp scales and hard mouths, so make sure you wear fishing gloves to protect your hands
  • When you see a school of tarpon with a good pair of polarized sunglasses, drift with your boat, and cast to the other side of the school, slowly retrieving your lure or live bait through them – and hold on!

Recommended Tarpon Fishing Gear

Tarpon fishing is very different from smaller, docile freshwater fish. They are aggressive and strong and require much heavier gear.

  • Rod: 8 foot spinning rod
  • Reel: A spinning reel with 250-300 yards of line capacity
  • Line: 50-80 lb of braided fishing line
  • Leader: 60-80 lb leader
  • Tackle: 7/0 circle hooks

Tarpon Fishing Tips Video

It can be difficult to really understand what you are going up against when going tarpon fishing just by reading text – you need to see these aggressive, powerful fish in action. Below is a good video showing how tarpon will react in Tampa Bay and is a good starting point.


Tarpon are a fantastic catch and release fish that will shock you with their strength and acrobatics. They are one of the most popular fish to chase in Florida, and can grow to huge sizes. While hooking them is not particularly difficult, landing one is insanely hard.

Hopefully these tips have given you a better understanding of the tarpon fish behavior and how to go about catching them. We always recommend going out with a local charter or experienced angler to learn from them out on the water before going out on your own. There is only so much you can learn from your computer screen.

If you have caught tarpon before, then please leave a comment below with your own tarpon fishing tips to help everyone to learn and we will continue to update this article to become the key post on tarpon fishing.

We have also put together an article on other freshwater and saltwater fish species to help you catch more fish.

Happy fishing!

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Russ Egan

Russ is an avid fisherman. He has fished all over the world for more than two decades, primarily for saltwater game fish but also for local trophy fish. Russ writes reviews for all of his fishing gear to help others achieve their own fishing goals. His favorite reel is a Shimano Curado Baitcaster. His dream is to catch a Black Marlin.