In 1885, the first tarpon ever caught on a rod and reel was documented in Southwest Florida. Anglers flocked to Florida from around the world to see if the reports were true—that a prehistoric silver fish weighing more than 100 pounds would present them with the fight of a lifetime.
The tarpon became world-renowned as the mighty “Silver King,” known for its brute strength, majestic acrobatics, and relentless spirit, revolutionizing big game fishing forever. Today, tarpon fishing is the premier saltwater angling pursuit that still draws thousands of anglers to Southwest Florida and means big business for those who make their living in the state’s $9 billion fishing industry.
In April, tarpon begin their annual migration along the coast of Florida before heading offshore to spawn. While most eager anglers will venture to Boca Grande, the renowned “Tarpon Fishing Capital of the World,” the dialed-in diehards and locals know to keep their eye on the neighboring estuary, Charlotte Harbor.
Charlotte Harbor is the second largest estuary in Florida, covering 270 square miles and directly connecting to Boca Grande Pass. Thousands of tarpon will congregate in these water bodies during their migration keeping professional fishing guides and hopeful anglers entertained for months on end.
Local guides, tackle shops, and tourism rely on the annual tarpon craze to bring business to the area and look forward to the season as a holiday to be celebrated.
Captain Josh Greer knows better than anyone the importance of the local tarpon fishery. A Florida native, fly fishing guide, and fly shop owner, Capt. Josh explains, “Tarpon fishing is the lifeblood of Charlotte County. Historically, that’s what the first visitors came here for and, today, much of the local economy is driven by the tarpon fishermen. Without tarpon fishing, Charlotte County would not be what it is today.”
Every April, Capt. Josh kicks off tarpon season with an annual Tarpon Festival at his shop, West Wall Outfitters, featuring seminars from local fishing guides, food trucks, vendors, casting classes, and more. This year, the event takes place on Sunday, April 28, at 3846 Tamiami Trail in Port Charlotte. It’s free and open to the public.
The Charlotte County seal once featured a tarpon, representing the importance of the species to the county’s heritage and economy. Research prepared for The Everglades Foundation and published in a January 2011 report estimated tarpon fishing has a $108.6 million economic impact in Southwest Florida (Charlotte, Collier, Lee and Sarasota counties) and the industry supports the equivalent of 1,094 full-time jobs for the region. (Source: “The Economic Impact of Recreational Tarpon Fishing in the Caloosahatchee River and Charlotte Harbor Region of Florida,” prepared for The Everglades Foundation and prepared by Tony Fedler, Ph.D., January 2011. The research was made possible through the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust.
If you’ve never felt the adrenaline-inciting thrill of reeling in the mighty SIlver King, the tarpon are in and the time is now. Use our directory to find your experienced fishing guide and prepare yourself for the ultimate saltwater fishing experience!