The Tarpon (megalops atlanticus) is one of the most exciting game animals in the world. The thrill of having a 5 foot, 100 pound fish come rocketing out of the water in a spectacular series of leaps is an experience no angler ever forgets. Making this event even more thrilling is that often the strike is quite near the shore, sometimes with pine trees in the background. Having an animal this large, this beautiful, and this violent strike your bait in shallow water is stunning.
Why Wakulla County
Wakulla County is a great place to fish for Tarpon. The adults of this species are migratory, and they begin to arrive in this area in late spring and continue to arrive during the summer months. There are juvenile Tarpon that live here year-round. These juveniles range in size from their larval stage to a length of about 42 inches. Adult Tarpon in this area may be as long as 72 inches plus. Tarpon fishermen use a formula in which the ratio of a Tarpon’s length and girth gives a reliable estimate of the fish’s weight.
Where Tarpon Like to Go
Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that one hunts for Tarpon rather than fishes for them. It is a sight fishing game. As with other game species, Tarpon have places they like to go, and the Tarpon fisherman knows where these places are. There is no great mystery here, because Tarpon are constantly on the move and they quite often follow familiar paths or tracks, most often quite near the shore.
Especially in a place like Wakulla County where there are numerous creeks, rivers, and bays, Tarpon like to swim along these crooked shorelines as close as 10 to 50 yards. Tarpon tend to swim nearer the shore when the tide is rising and the impetus of the tide flow brings them in a bit closer.
Knowing What to Look For
The Tarpon is the oldest bony fish, and over the eons it has developed a rudimentary lung which allows it to thrive in both salt and fresh water - also in water with low oxygen content. Perhaps because of this rudimentary lung, Tarpon come to the surface quite often, and fishermen learn to look for the tell-tale “twin fin” pattern that just breaks the water. These two fins are the Tarpon’s dorsal fin and tail, and this pattern helps distinguish a Tarpon from other fishes such as Sharks.
Keep an eye out for another upcoming blog on insider tips for Tarpon fishing in Wakulla County from local fisherman Bernie Sloan, and be sure to download our visitor’s guide to see what other things you can do while you’re here. In addition to being a great scalloping location, Wakulla County also offers a wide range of nature-based activities that make it the perfect place to come and enjoy the great outdoors.