5 Tips for Catching Tarpon

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Whether you are an experienced fisherman or just starting out, learning how to catch Tarpon can be both a fun and rewarding experience. Tarpon are large fish that are highly sought after by anglers for their size, strength and acrobatic behavior when hooked making them a popular target species for many anglers.

So, with that, welcome to my 5 tips for catching Tarpon this year as we see what we can come up with to assist you in getting them onto the hook and into the net…

What are Tarpon?

Tarpon are found in warm coastal waters, primarily in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. They are large fish, with adults capable of reaching impressive sizes and inhabit both saltwater and brackish environments, including estuaries, bays, lagoons, and coastal areas.

They can grow up to 8 feet (2.4 meters) in length and weigh over 200 pounds (90 kilograms) with a striking appearance due to their shiny, silver-colored scales and elongated, cylindrical bodies with a thick midsection that tapers towards the tail. They are also known for their distinctive, large mouth that opens upward, forming a characteristic “bucket” shape. Their lower jaw protrudes beyond the upper jaw and both jaws are equipped with numerous sharp teeth.

tips for catching Tarpon - Tarpon jumping

Tips for catching Tarpon

Ok, so let’s get into some of my tips for catching Tarpon below…

1. Choose the Right Time and Place

As with many species, timing and location are crucial when it comes to Tarpon fishing. To be successful here, consider the following factors:

  • Season: Tarpon behavior varies throughout the year, and timing your fishing trips during peak seasons can significantly improve your success rate. Spring and summer are generally the prime Tarpon seasons in many locations, as they migrate to their spawning grounds and actively feed. Tarpon can still be caught in Autumn and Winter however this does tend to be limited to areas where the waters are still warm.
  • Location: Research and identify the Tarpon hotspots in your target area. Coastal areas, estuaries, backwater channels, bridges and flats are often favored Tarpon habitats. Local fishing reports, guides, and experienced anglers can provide valuable insights into the best fishing spots for Tarpon. If unsure, always check with your local bait and tackle shop.
  • Tides: Tarpon are highly influenced by tidal movements hence understanding the tides and how they affect Tarpon feeding patterns is crucial. Rising tides can create excellent fishing opportunities for Tarpon due to the influx of new water and the movement of baitfish. Once the tide falls, where water levels are receding from high tide towards low tide, unique fishing opportunities for Tarpon are presented as they concentrate baitfish and create feeding scenarios.

2. Use Effective Bait and Lures

This one is definitely a tip for all types of fishing as well but especially important for Tarpon. Known to be opportunistic predators, they will chase live baitfish such as mullet, pilchards or large shrimp. Present the live bait using a variety of methods, such as free-lining, under a float or on a Carolina rig, depending on the conditions and target location. And always do your research to match the live bait you use to that found naturally within the waterway that you are fishing.

If live bait is not your preferred choice, Tarpon can be enticed by a range of artificial lures as well including swimbaits, soft plastics, topwater plugs and spoons. Choose lures that imitate the Tarpon’s natural prey, such as mullet or herring (or again match local prey) and experiment with different retrieves and depths to find what triggers a Tarpon’s aggressive response.

tips for catching Tarpon - Tarpon in shallow water

3. Gear Up Properly

AS discussed above, Tarpon are a large fish that strike hard. So to tackle the brute strength of of this popular sport fish, equip yourself with the appropriate gear. The following is a good baseline for those new to Tarpon fishing:

  • Rod and Reel: Opt for a medium-heavy to heavy-action rod with a length of 7 to 8 feet (2.1 to 2.4 meters). Match the rod with a strong and reliable spinning or conventional reel capable of holding at least 200 to 300 yards (183 to 274 meters) of 30 to 50-pound test line.
  • Line and Leader: Use braided or monofilament lines in the 30 to 50-pound test range, depending on the size of the Tarpon and fishing conditions. Connect your mainline to a sturdy fluorocarbon leader of 60 to 100 pounds using appropriate knots like a uni-to-uni or Bristol knot.
  • Hooks: Choose strong and corrosion-resistant hooks in sizes ranging from 3/0 to 7/0, depending on the bait being used. Circle hooks are popular for Tarpon fishing, increasing the chances of hooking in the corner of the mouth and facilitating catch-and-release practices. Make sure your hooks are sharp and properly sized for the bait you are using.

4. Cast Carefully and Accurately

Tarpon are often found near structure, such as bridges, docks, or mangroves so practice your casting accuracy to place your bait or lure close to these structures where they are likely to be lurking. Tarpon can also be found at various depths depending on the conditions and their feeding preferences. Experiment with different depths by adjusting your bait presentation or using weighted lures to reach the desired zone. Pay attention to where the Tarpon are feeding and adjust accordingly.

Tarpon are accustomed to the movements of their prey so whether using live bait or lures, try to imitate the natural movements of injured or fleeing baitfish. Jerk the bait sporadically to create a wounded fish action or use a steady retrieve to match the behavior of fast moving bait fish.

When hooked, Tarpon are known for their spectacular jumps and powerful runs. To maintain control, keep the rod tip pointed towards the fish, allowing it to bend and absorb the Tarpon’s lunges while exerting steady pressure.

tips for catching Tarpon - Tarpon in reef

5. Practice Responsible Catch-and-Release

Tarpon are generally considered a catch-and-release species due to their importance in the sport fishing industry and their role in maintaining healthy ecosystems. To ensure the well-being of the Tarpon you encounter and preserve their legacy for future generations, consider the following:

  1. Minimize Handling Time: When you successfully hook a Tarpon, minimize the amount of time you handle the fish as extended handling can stress it and reduce its chances of survival after release. If possible, keep the Tarpon in the water during the entire process.
  2. Use Proper Landing Techniques: Using a large, knotless landing net can help safely bring the Tarpon alongside your boat or onto the shore. Support the fish’s weight by cradling it in the net rather than lifting it vertically by the jaw. Avoid lifting Tarpon by their gills or tails, as it can cause injury or damage.
  3. Remove Hooks with Care: If you need to remove the hook, do so quickly and efficiently. Use proper tools such as long-nose pliers or dehooking devices to facilitate a safe and swift hook removal. If the hook is deeply embedded or difficult to remove, consider cutting the line close to the hook to minimize harm. Avoid excessive manipulation or touching of the fish’s gills and internal organs.
  4. Avoid Exhausting the Fish: Tarpon are renowned for their powerful fights and endurance so to avoid completely exhausting the fish, fight it efficiently by applying steady pressure and allowing it to make runs while minimizing unnecessary stress. Do not overtire the fish to the point of complete exhaustion as this can greatly decrease its chances of survival after release.
  5. Revive the Fish: After handling and hook removal, revive the Tarpon by gently moving it through the water, allowing oxygen-rich water to flow over its gills. Hold the fish facing into the current or with its head slightly downward to facilitate proper respiration.


So there you have it, my 5 Tarpon fishing tips for those looking to get amongst these hard fighting beauties this year. As always, these are not going to guarantee you a catch, however they should give you a little more chance of success that you may not have otherwise had.

Have you tried anything else that has worked well, or not so well for you – or of course have a different opinion than above? If so, please comment below and we can have a chat.

As always

Have fun


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Hi, I'm Paul

I am a passionate fishing, camping and four wheeled driving hobbyist who researches, tests and educates around issues and equipment relevant to them.

I am by no means a professional however my passion is to assist you in making informed decisions about buying and using awesome gear that will give you the best chance of success at whatever you are doing for the best price.

Please get in touch if you have any questions.