Perhaps the biggest lure of saltwater sport fishing is the battle to land a hooked fish. For many anglers the tougher this fight is in direct correlation to how good of a day one has while out fishing. And few species put up a bigger battle than Tarpon, the Silver Kings which have helped make Florida’s Gulf Coast known worldwide among serious saltwater fishing enthusiasts. Although common to almost all the Gulf’s coastal waters, a variety of factors can make locating them difficult. Lucky for sport anglers that Tampa Bay’s annual Crab Flush helps make it among the premiere destinations for reliable Tarpon action.
Tarpon can be found in a variety of coastal environments throughout Florida because of their unique swim bladders. Most fish species use their swim bladders for buoyancy, but Tarpon have evolved unique swim bladders that allow them to do something rare for fish… breathe air. As a result, they can be found in waters with low dissolved oxygen content that other species simply couldn’t survive in. Tarpon regularly come to the surface to gulp air, using a rolling motion that helps sport anglers locate them. And a Tarpon gulping air gets an extra boost of energy when hunting for prey or trying to lose a determined fisherman once hooked.
This extra energy derived from the ability to breathe air allows Tarpon to make the spectacular and explosive leaps they are infamous for in the sport fishing world. Relentless endurance and power makes it a challenge to land them for even the most experienced anglers. The average fight to land a hooked Tarpon is usually in the one to three hour range for most fishermen.
Another reason it can be a challenge to find reliable areas to fish them is because Tarpon like to migrate with seasonal variations in water temperatures and the movements of their preferred prey, crabs and mid-water species like mullet and pinfish. Add to that their ability to live in both freshwater and saltwater and finding them can be tricky.
But an annual summer phenomenon in Tampa Bay, known by locals as the Crab Chew or Crab Flush, has helped make it one of the premiere locations in Florida for a reliable opportunity to hook up with a Tarpon. Pass and Blue Crabs are a favorite meal of Tarpon, and from late April through July they drift out of Tampa Bay by the thousands during a hill tide. During the outgoing tide, the crabs are drawn upwards, attracted by the light of the full moon, and swept out of the bay on the tide, providing an irresistible all-you-can-eat buffet for the Tarpon. Full and new moons in May, June and July are when the annual Crab Chew peaks, attracting the Tarpon and the sport anglers who absolutely love them.
This natural occurrence lures both novice and experienced Tarpon fishermen. For those new to Tarpon fishing though, it is a good idea to book a chartered trip that specializes in targeting these ultimate game fish, as experienced guides know best what tackle and techniques will get you hooked up to the Silver Kings of sport fishing. And if you can’t make it out fishing during this peak season, a good charter Captain can help you find Tarpon at other times of the year, or other locations along the Gulf Coast.
If you are like most sport fishermen, and the battle is more important than the fish itself, than you owe it to yourself to take on a Tarpon. Hook up to the pound for pound king of coastal fighting fish and enjoy the angling experience of a lifetime.