A tarpon primer — know before you go

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Capt. David White wrangles a tarpon on the hook — caught May 16 on a pass crab — to the boat for a trophy photo and dehooking. Islander Courtesy Photos
Capt. David White wrangles a tarpon on the hook — caught May 16 on a pass crab — to the boat for a trophy photo and dehooking. Islander Courtesy Photos

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission made tarpon catch-and-release in 2013. In addition, the following regulations apply when fishing for tarpon:

  • Gear used for tarpon is limited to hook-and-line.
  • Tarpon is a catch-and-release-only species, with the exception of the harvest or possession of a single tarpon when in pursuit of an IGFA record and in conjunction with a tarpon tag.
  • Tarpon tags are limited to one per person, per year (except for charter boat captains).
  • Transport or shipment of tarpon harvested with a tag is limited to one fish per person.
  • One fish per vessel limit is created for tarpon harvested with a tag.
  • People are allowed to temporarily possess a tarpon for photography, measurement of length and girth and scientific sampling, with the stipulation that tarpon more than 40 inches must remain in the water.
  • Tarpon regulations extend into federal waters.
  • Tarpon tag cost is $50 per tag.
  • The use of treble hooks and similar multiple-point hooks is prohibited in conjunction with live or dead natural bait to harvest or attempt to harvest tarpon.

 

Tarpon handling guidelines

Tarpon is an iconic saltwater fish. When handled properly, these large fish are more likely to survive and evade predators.

Following the FWC guidelines can ensure the tarpon fishery remains strong and viable.

  • Tarpon over 40 inches must remain in the water unless a tag is used.
  • Tarpon tags can be used exclusively for harvest of a potential IGFA record-sized tarpon. Taxidermy mounts can be made from length and girth measurements and a photograph.
  • Don’t tow a tarpon unless it is necessary to revive it. If you must tow, go as slow as possible while still moving water over the gills.
  • Keep head and gills in the water.
  • Do not target tarpon from bridges or piers — releasing tarpon from bridges or piers requires specialized lifting gear or cutting the line, which leaves long amounts of line trailing behind the fish.

 

Use proper tackle

  • Use barbless, single, non-offset circle hooks for natural bait.
  • Use single hooks rather than treble hooks.
  • Use tackle heavy enough to land the tarpon quickly, minimize exhaustion and help the fish avoid predators after release.

 

Other tips

  • Do not drag tarpon over the gunnel of a boat.
  • Use a dehooking tool.
  • Tarpon smaller than 40 inches should be supported horizontally when removed from the water. Tarpon larger than 40 inches must remain in the water.
  • Do not fish for tarpon when large predatory sharks are in the area feeding. If sharks show up, move to another fishing location.
  • DO NOT get in the water with a tarpon!

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