Few fish are more game than tarpon. They jump like demons, they’re remarkably strong, they readily strike lures and baits, they grow to enormous size and they’re abundant. Fish in the 80- to 100-pound class are common; ones more than 150 pounds are caught regularly. Best of all, you don’t need a passport to enjoy great tarpon fishing, since much of the world’s best silver king angling is right in the U.S.
Boca Grande, Florida
Located at the mouth of Charlotte Harbor near Fort Myers, Boca Grande has the largest known concentration of tarpon in the world. Historically, May and June are tops.
While you can do this fishing on your own, excellent guides are available, including Captain Dave Markett (813-962-1435) and Captain Joel Brandenburg (anabananafishing.com). Lots of motels and restaurants abound, but it gets crowded during the height of the season. One of the most beautiful places to headquarter is Cabbage Key (cabbagekey.com).
St. Simons Island, Georgia
Georgia has exceptional tarpon fishing near the famed “Golden Isles,” around the coastal town of Brunswick. Fishing is done within a couple of miles of shore; the tarpon show in early June and offer consistent fishing through September, and often well into October.
Last August, 41 anglers in 11 tournament boats hooked an estimated 195 tarpon, and caught and released 61 fish weighing 40 to 180 pounds.
Greg Hildreth (georgiacharter fishing.com) knows the tarpon waters in the St. Simons Island area well. Top hotels, motels, resorts and restaurants can be found on Sea, St. Simons and Jekyll islands. One of the best is the Beachview Club (beachviewclub.com), on Jekyll Island.
Marathon/Islamorada, Florida Keys
Tarpon swarm around the bridge connecting Bahia Honda Key with West Summerland Key. Anglers fishing with mullet baits in the channel enjoy peak fishing for silver kings from mid-May through June.
Tarpon fishing remains good all through the Middle Keys until the end of July. Through summer and early fall, plenty of small resident tarpon in the 30- to 60-pound class can be found around bridges at night.
Many gifted tarpon guides work the Middle Keys. Three of the best are Lenny Moffo (lennymoffo.com), Jake Jordan (jakejordan.com), and Bus Bergman (305-743-7021).
Banana Bay Resort (bananabay.com) is a relaxing family spot, with boat rentals, a marina at Marathon and close proximity to great tarpon action.
St. Augustine, Florida
Big tarpon prowl these waters on the northeast Florida coast from June through September. The bulk of the fishing is done with bait–usually dead menhaden soaked in chum lines–within a couple of miles of the beach.
Lots of excellent accommodations and restaurants can be found in and around St. Augustine. Fine tarpon guides are available, including Captain Whit Whitlock (904-285-3077) and Captain Kevin Faver (904-829-0027).