Tarpon (Megalops atlanticus)

“Silver King’s” have a blue, greenish, black back and bright mirror silver side. They may be brownish gold in tainted estuarien waters. It has a single dorsal fin which extends into a long filament. Their bodies are stout and its extremely large scales are shiny. Their hard, boney and rough mouths are upturned. This prehistoric fish dates back 100 million years and unlike most fish can gulp air from the surface as well breathe through their gills. They are one of the few fish in the world that have a swim bladder that acts as a lung. The swim bladder can be filled directly with air, permitting the fish to live in oxygen poor waters. They are very slow growers and do not reach sexual maturity until 7 years of age and up to 13 years. The females can live for over 50 years while the smaller males 30 years. An average 100 pound Tarpon is about 13 to 16 years old. Female tarpon grow as large as 300 pounds and can reach over 8ft long. One female can lay as many as 12million eggs. They can tolerate a wide range of salinity so are primarily inshore fish, although adult fish spawn offshore on the major moons when the tides are strongest. They inhabit coastal waters, bays, estuaries, mangrove-lined lagoons, rivers and river mouths with entering fresh water. Large schools may inhabit a particular area for years. Tarpon are distributed widely throught the atlantic Ocean, they are found off the west coast of Africa from Senegal all the way down to Angola as well as on the east coast of the Americas from Cape Hatteras in the north through the Gulf of Mexico, Florida, the West Indies and as far south as Brazil. Tarpon are toothless and they swallow their prey whole. Their diet primary consists on fish and large crustaceans depending on on their location. The IGFA all tackle record is 286lbs 9oz caught in Guinea-Bassau and the 20lbs fly record is 202lbs caught in Florida.

Techique

Techniques used in different areas vary according to depth of water and clarity. Most Tarpon fishing is actually done in the upper colum of the water surface. In basically all instances you will be fishing from a boat or Skiff. Sight fishing in clear water off the USA or Cuba coast you are positiones with the aid of being polled or an electric motor. Fish are spotted, intercepted and the fly cast in front of the fish or school of fish. When in the colour stained waters of western Africa we target Tarpon in the inshore waters around river mouths and on the color lines formed where the river and sea water meets, as well as along the surf zone. Casts are made at cruising or basking fish on some occasions and on other other occasions at pods of fish as they move, some will come to the surface, roll and take in a gulp of air. Casts are made in the general area and the fly is allowed to sink before retrieving it. Its important to intice the fish with an eratic strip if you can see his body language. Use a medium to fast strip retrieve and make sure that you set the hook hard, using your line hand to line strike as well as the rod. This is the only way that you are going to get the fly into such a bony mouth. When a hooked Tarpon realizes its hooked hell take to the air, usually in a series of aerial displays, jumping and rattling his gills. Bow each time the fish jumps to take the strain off the hooked area. At this stage youll understand why you need a reel with a good, smooth drag system, because now hes going to make a mad dash for the horizon and all you can do is let him.

FlyCastaway were instrumental in figuring out how to catch Tarpon on fly off the west coats of Africa. We have broken the 200lbs mark on a number of occasions and are constantly exploring new venues.

Tackle:

  • Fly Rod: Quick action 9 foot 12 weight fly rod.
  • Reel & Backing: Saltwater series reel that can hold 500 or more meters of 80lbs braid. A Bimini Twist to Double Surgions should be tied into the braid, following which the fly line and backing should be joined using the loop to loop method.
  • Lines: Weight Forward 12 weight ghost tip floating or full intermediate fly line with 50lbs braided loops nail knotted onto the ends.
  • Leaders: We use straight 80lbs 100lbs flourocarbon shock with a variety of different class bepending on the size of the fish we are chasing.
  • Knots: Fly to Shock – Improved Homer Rhode or Perfection Loop; Shock to Class Bimini Twist in the class and connected to the Shock with a Barrel knot. Class to Braided loop Bimini Twist.
  • Flies: Taropn Whistlers, Tarpon Bunnies, Brush Flies and Tarpon Toads tied on Gamakatsu 2/0 4/0 – SL12S and SC15-2H (Link to fly patterns and fly tying)
  • Sunglasses: Dark amber or mirror blue grey lenses.
  • Glove: A diving glove is necessary to handle Tarpon as they have rough mouths which can seriously damage an anglers hands.

Before leaving on your trip you will be briefed in detail by the FlyCastaway guides as to exactly what fly patterns you are going to need and how you should prepare your tackle. For all our destinations we have compiled a comprehensive tackle list.

Destinations 

USA ApalachicolaCuba – West coast of Africa