Tarpon Time

Boca Grande, Florida Located at the mouth of Charlotte Harbor near the town of Fort Myers, Boca Grande has the largest known concentration of tarpon in the world. Historically May and June are tops, but in recent years outstanding fishing has gotten underway as early as late April when there are comparatively few fishermen around. Summer fishing is outstanding inside the Harbor.
While this fishing can be done on-your-own, and it can be crowded, it's smart to hire a guide, at least initially to learn the ropes. For fly rodders, one of the best is Captain Phil O'Bannon (phone 941-964-0359). For jiggers, Captain Dave Markett (phone 813-962-1435) is a top choice. Captain Joel Brandenburg (phone 813-645-8795/813-267-4401) is another good one.
Marathon/Islamorada, Florida Keys In spring tarpon begin to show in good numbers in the Middle Keys, most notably near the towns of Marathon and Islamorada. When water temperature reaches 74 degrees, anglers using live silver mullet work around Seven-Mile Bridge, south of Marathon. They anchor or drift in channels around the bridge early and late in the day, and on a good outing can "jump" 10 to 12 fish. This is the best time to hook a truly big tarpon weighing in the 150-pound class, though most weigh 80-to-100 pounds.
Tarpon swarm around the bridge connecting Bahia Honda Key with West Summerland Key. Anglers fishing with mullet in the channel enjoy peak fishing from mid-May to mid-June. Through summer and early fall plenty of small "resident" tarpon in the 30-to-60 pound class can be found around bridges at night, passes, and in canals.
Many gifted tarpon guides work the Middle Keys. Some of the best are: Lenny Moffo (phone 305-872-4683), Bus Bergman (phone 305-743-7021), Dave Denkert (phone 305-852-1425/305-393-5134), Eric VanDemark (phone 305-258-9917/786-564-1540), and Steve Friedman (phone 305-393-3474).
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 miles of shore, and tarpon show in early June and offer consistent fishing through September, often well into October. In a good day anglers will "jump" several fish, sometimes landing three or four. Anglers get a lot of 100-pounders, and some weighing close to 200 pounds - giants in the tarpon world.
Greg Hildreth (phone 912-261-1763/866-GA-FISH) and Mark Noble (phone 912-634-1219) know the tarpon waters well in the St. Simons Island area.
Venice, Louisiana The nutrient-rich Mississippi River mouth, combined with the clear, deep, warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, form a unique water mixture that has created some of the most incredible fishing found anywhere - and all of it is within fast striking distance of anglers working out of the town of Venice.
From mid-summer through October, huge tarpon are found in bays near Venice and nearby Grand isle. Fish commonly weigh 100 pounds, and every summer silver kings over 200-pounds are recorded. Once recent fall Louisiana legendary tarpon guide Lance "Coon" Schouest (inventor of the "Coon Pop" lure; phone 985-688-7633) led anglers to several 200-pound class tarpon, including a 210-pounder, caught, weighed, and released by "Coon," himself.
Homosassa, Florida Anglers who know tarpon speak about Homosassa on Florida's central Gulf Coast the way golf fanatics revere St. Andrews in Scotland.
Few places on the planet have as many big tarpon as Homosassa. It's a place made famous by world record fish caught by anglers like Al Plueger Jr., Stu Apte and Billy Pate. Fish over 150-pounds are ho-humers, and 200-pound fish are available, though few landed.
Homosassa is most famous as a fly-rod fishing spot. But its clear, deep flats also are good for spin and plug fishermen. Fishing can start in April, peaking in May and June. Some resident fish are always around, with 60 to 80 pounders average. The Last Resort (phone 352-628-7117) is a good place to stay. Guides charge around $500 per day. Try Phil Chapman (tarponfeathers@msn.com; phone 863-646-9445) or Mike Locklear (352-628-4207/ 352-422-1927).
Key West, Florida Flats fishing for tarpon is done primarily by fly rodders who stalk fish from poled boats, or by "staking out" and ambushing them as they parade by with a tide. Fishing is prime in May and June, but excellent flats action can be had though the summer and fall.
Many superb guides are available in Key West, and often they are booked months in advance, so plan accordingly. Some good ones include Captain Justin Rea (phone 305-744-0903) and Captain Bob Paulson (305-744-0263).
Apalachicola, Florida This great fishing spot in the Sunshine State Panhandle has an interesting and often overlooked tarpon fishery. While some other areas have more consistent action, Apalachicola is a close destination for many mid-South anglers wanting a good shot at summer tarpon.
Casting plugs and jigs around inlets is productive. A very good, though well-defined, flats fly fishery exists, but anglers are wise to learn the ropes fast by hiring a guide such as Capt. Tommy Robinson or his brother Capt. Chris Robinson (phone 850-653-8896).
Pamlico Sound, North Carolina North Carolina may be the farthest north that consistently good tarpon fishing is available in the U.S.; something noteworthy to anglers living in the Midwest and Northeast. At times in late summer huge schools of 100-pound class tarpon can be found in the sound, chiefly in the Neuse River area.
The town of Oriental is a good place to headquarter, where they have an annual big dollar tarpon tournament every summer. George Beckwith (phone 252-249-3101, 252-636-7304) knows well the Pamlico tarpon ropes.
Northeast Florida June through September outstanding tarpon fishing is found along the near-shore beaches of Florida's First Coast. Excellent action for solid 80 to 150 pound fish is found out of the ports of St. Augustine, Fernandina and Mayport.
It's chum fishing with big rods in deep water (20 to 40 feet), and the fish are tough and abundant. You can do it on your own, but learn the ropes from charter captains like Whit Whitlock (phone 904-285-3077).
Fort Pierce-Stuart, Florida Tarpon can be found in this area of southeast Florida virtually year-round. But there's a strong push of big, migrating fish working through the area in May-June, and again in the fall during the mullet migration.
In other seasons, smaller "baby" tarpon under about 40 pounds are in good supply in creeks and rivers throughout the region. Good tarpon captains include Ed Zyak (772-485-3474), Butch Constable (phone 561-747-6665) and Mike Holiday (phone 772-341-6105).

These ten great destinations are sure to satisfy your domestic fishing dream for tarpon.