Boca Grande Tarpon Fishing
Tarpon are the pride and joy of Florida sports fishing. They can be caught all throughout the state, and are some of the most prestigious game fish in the world. Some of the biggest fisheries are Tampa Bay, Miami, and Boca Grande. Since you’re reading this article, you’re probably looking to fish in Boca Grande!
In order to prepare you for catching the tarpon of a lifetime while you’re there, we’ve documented everything you need to know about tarpon fishing in Boca Grande: a quick background on tarpon, what tackle you should use, and when/where you should fish.
Let’s get started!
What Exactly are Tarpon?
While many of you already know the answer to this, we figured it made sense to do a quick review. There are actually two species of tarpon, Atlantic Tarpon and Indo-pacific Tarpon. The Indo tarpon are much smaller in size than Atlantic tarpon and aren’t caught in nearly the numbers of their western cousins. Atlantic tarpon are the tarpon you’ll be fishing for in Boca Grande, and all of North America for that matter. Tarpon are found in saltwater, but often frequent areas of brackish water due to their prey hanging out there. Inlets, marshes, and bays all are top places for tarpon to feed.
Tarpon’s diet consists of mostly small baitfish and insects when they’re below 2 feet, then larger fish, crabs, and shrimp above that size. Adult tarpon can often be seen darting in and out of large schools of mullet picking off the unlucky few that get too close.
Speaking of Adult tarpon, they grow to be huge: it’s not uncommon for them to reach over 200 lbs and up to 8 feet in length. They are covered with many large, shiny scales and have blueish/black fins. Tarpon have a large mouth with no teeth that is used to suck up smaller baitfish a lot like how largemouth bass eat fish. Tarpon also have extremely good vision, and enjoy hunting for fish at night. Their massive eyes are extra sensitive in low light and great for midnight hunting.
Tackle Needed for Boca Grande
Tarpon are some of the strongest fish you can catch in Boca Grande and you’ll need tackle that can handle their strength. We like fishing with a saltwater spinning reel paired with a large saltwater proof rod. If you’re fishing from shore or in the surf, a long surfcasting rod is your best bet.
For fishing line, we usually use 40 to 60 lb monofilament or braided line with a monofilament leader. Since tarpon have such great eyesight, you need to make sure they don’t see your braided line.
We recommend using live bait if you can. It requires the easiest rig and is readily available at local Boca Grande bait shops. You can also catch baitfish ahead of time using a bait fish trap if you want to save some money. For the different types of baitfish you should use, we like using mullet, shrimp, or shad. If you happen to time your trip during the mullet run, that’s going to be your best bet for tarpon in Boca Grande.
If you want to use artificial lures, we recommend using large topwater floating lures or fly fishing. Large bright colored streamer flies work best for tarpon.
Tarpon Fishing in Florida
It’s worth noting that tarpon are catch and release only in Florida. You can keep one per season only if you buy a tarpon tag, and only one tarpon tag may be purchased per person per year. The tag is specifically for fishermen looking to break records, so we recommend not worrying about it and sticking to catch and release.
There are a few more additional rules on landing tarpon in Boca Grande. The fish must remain in the water at all times (even for photos) if it measures over 40 inches from nose to tail. These large fish will get injured if you pull them out of the water. There are also guidelines around towing tarpon to get them oxygen – don’t do it unless they cannot swim on their own. Lastly, watch out for nearby sharks when landing a tarpon. Many types of sharks would love to eat a tired tarpon as an easy snack.
When to Fish for Tarpon in Boca Grande
As with most tarpon fisheries in Florida, the best time to fish for tarpon in Boca Grande is from April to August. Charlotte Harbor is great for catching tarpon on spinning lures or flies early in the season as the tarpon begin to migrate into the harbor.
As the season progresses into May and June, Boca Grande Pass begins to experience crab flushes. Crab flushes are when the strong outgoing tides pull inshore crabs into deeper water where the tarpon like to feed. The crab flush is concentrated in Boca Grande Pass and makes it the best place to fish in the summer. This is amplified during the afternoon and evening around new moons and full moons (when the tides are the strongest). The Boca Grande crab flush is one of the most exciting times to fish for tarpon in Boca Grande – it’s not uncommon for boats to hook 20+ fish in one day.
Where to Fish for Tarpon in Boca Grande
The best places to fish in Boca Grande for tarpon are Charlotte Harbor and Boca Grande Pass. As we mentioned above, Boca Grande pass is a section of deeper water where tarpon like to hang out while feeding. During their migratory months, Boca Grande Pass fill up with hungry tarpon waiting for an easy meal. You can often see tarpon rolling here en masse.
If you’re wondering what days of the week or time of day you should go fishing for tarpon in Boca Grande, we recommend fishing on weekdays early in the morning or late afternoon/night. Boca Grande Pass sees hundreds of boats on the weekends and can get extremely crowded during the summer months. If you fish on a weekday you’ll avoid this.
There’s also a particularly good place to fish the crab flush during the summer months: the Boca Grande Pass hill. Many of the other guides and charters chase the tarpon offshore with bait during the day. Once they’re done fishing, the tarpon swim back into the bay through the inside of the pass called the hill. This area has the highest concentration of tarpon and makes for a great spot to fish late in the day. We recommend using a friend’s boat or getting a fishing kayak to access the prime fishing spots.
Tarpon fishing in Boca Grande is some of the best in the world. The number of tarpon that swim through Boca Grande pass is unprecedented and gives even the most amateur of anglers a shot at catching a monster tarpon.
Got any other tips on fishing for tarpon in Boca Grande? Let us know in the comments below.
And if you want to go tarpon fish in the Florida Keys, check out our write-up on the best tarpon fishing guide in the Florida Keys.