Tarpon Capital of the World

Capt. Jay Withers reels in a tarponBoca Grande was named #1 on the list of The World's Best Tarpon Fishing Spots by Sport Fishing Magazine in 2019.

The tarpon, also known as the “silver king,” is a spectacular game fish famous for putting up challenging fights. The thrill of landing one can last a lifetime, and tarpon fishing in Boca Grande is an event unto itself. 

Each spring, anglers armed with rods, reels, and dreams converge on Charlotte Harbor and Boca Grande Pass. Tarpon usually visit Charlotte Harbor’s waters between April and October, often peaking in June.

Weighing in on Tarpon

The average tarpon weighs between 90 and 130 pounds, but catches of over 200 pounds are not unheard-of. Recent legend claims a 276-pound tarpon was caught in Boca Grande Pass in 2004. The largest tarpon caught and released during a tournament happened during the 2009 Professional Tarpon Tournament Series when a team landed a 217-pound silver king. 

The World's Richest Tarpon Tournament takes place each spring, usually in May or June, when thousands of tarpon congregate in Charlotte Harbor and Boca Grande Pass as they migrate to and from their spawning grounds. It’s estimated about 5,000 tarpon are landed each spring in Boca Grande Pass alone.

Tarpon Fishing Basics

The Charlotte Harbor Gulf Island Coast makes an ideal base for a tarpon fishing vacation, with many professional fishing guides operating here year-round due to the diversity of the fishing in the area. Advantages of hiring a professional fishing guide include:

  • No need to purchase a saltwater fishing license: a professional fishing guide has a valid vessel license, so you don’t need an individual one.
  • Guides will have the appropriate tackle and will know which bait to use in order to land a silver king, so you don’t have to lug your own equipment.
  • Guides know the best spots, which means more time angling and less time searching for fish.
  • Florida fishing regulations change periodically, and a professional guide will be up-to-date on current regulations, which prevents you from fishing illegally.

If you are a do-it-yourself-er, there are a few additional things to know about tarpon fishing in Boca Grande Pass:

  • A saltwater fishing license is required to fish within Charlotte Harbor. Visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to purchase an annual, 3-day, or 7-day license by phone or online. 
  • Tarpon is a catch-and-release-only species in Florida. The only exception involves the pursuit of an International Game Fish Association (IGFA) world record. In order to keep a tarpon and submit it for world record consideration, you must pre-purchase a tarpon tag before fishing. Note: one tag per person/per year/per boat is issued.
  • It is illegal to possess more than one tarpon at a time on a vessel and there must be a tarpon tag affixed.
  • During the months of April, May, and June, seasonal tarpon fishing regulations take effect in Boca Grande Pass. These include:
    • Maximum of three fishing lines in the water from one boat at a time while fishing for all species
    • Breakaway gear, such as bob, float, weight, lure, or spoon affixed to a fishing line or hook with wire, line, rubber bands, plastic ties, or other fasteners designed to break off when a fish is caught, is prohibited. (Source: FWC)