Florida has some of the best tarpon fishing on Earth.
Tarpon are among the most prized gamefish out there, and for a good reason. And there may not be a better place than the Sunshine State when it comes to offering massive, torpedo-sized tarpon.
Hit the waters off Florida’s coastline, and you’ll soon find yourself in an epic battle with these incredible fish. Florida’s crystal-clear, warm waters offer the perfect habitat for the bucket list giant.
From the world-famous Boca Grande lagoons and flats to the Florida Keys, this is the place to be for tarpon. Whether casting a Crystal Minnow or tossing a fly, you’re sure to find success in Florida.
Tarpon are a prized catch for their insane fight.
Once you hook into a tarpon, you’ll quickly learn the most important thing is never to force it. Instead, when a hooked tarpon jumps, let your line go a little slack and point your rod tip down and toward the fish. You’ll lose far fewer fish this way.
We’ll share more tarpon-catching tactics in this article below. But for now, without further ado, here are the hotspots around the state that many call the best in the world.
The Best Tarpon Fishing in Florida
Tarpon are active throughout the state. Fishing the Florida Keys can be good year-round, with the best months being May through July. The prime season gets a little shorter as you move north, though it’s possible to catch them year-round across much of the state.
There are some epic spots along the Atlantic shore, while the entire Gulf Coast offers access to the silver kings.
The Atlantic shoreline has hundreds of miles of prime tarpon waters. Some of the best tarpon fishing is alongside the favorite redfish spots throughout the region.
You can find year-round fisheries for smaller tarpon throughout the many brackish coves and backcountry waters along the coastline, but we’ll highlight a handful of the best.
The Indian River is a great waterway for tarpon fishing. Vast populations of tarpon cruise the area, along with the connected bays and inlets.
You’ll want to gear up for this trip. The tarpon can get upwards of 100 pounds and wreck a lighter line.
Target them with live bait or lures like the Hogy Lure Original Mirrolure in sizes 65M or 77M. Use mullet patterns for best success.
The bigger fish are along the beaches and nearshore. So head out and hook into a giant.
The best times for the Indian River are early mornings and evenings, with early mornings getting the nod for most productive.
Tarpon fishing can be epic as the silver kings warm up. February through September are the best months here, with May through August being standouts.
You’ll find smaller fish the farther upriver you go. Brackish waters in the backcountry have excellent tarpon fishing year-round if you’re after numbers.
What can’t you catch in Mosquito Lagoon? It’s one of the top spots in Florida and possibly the best redfish fishing area in the state. It’s part of the Indian River Lagoon system on the Atlantic and offers incredible grass-flat fishing.
Sight fishing with a flyrod is a popular approach. Tie a 5″ to 8″ streamer and cast it in front of the tarpon. A quick retrieve will get the best response.
Live baits and lures work great throughout Mosquito Lagoon. Don’t stress too hard about your tactics. Just get the bait or lure in front of the fish, and you’ll likely find success.
Remember that tarpon can get over 200 pounds. So be prepared for big ones in the lagoon and surrounding beaches.
Hit the northern portion of the lagoon in the morning and work your way through to the southern end for some great evening fishing. Plenty of places line the shore to stop off for lunch, gear, and gas for the boat.
Ponce Inlet is another excellent spot on the Atlantic, located just north of Mosquito Lagoon.
Tarpon can be active at Ponce from January through September. Schools move freely up and down the coast throughout the spring and summer, and Ponce Inlet is ideally situated to draw big numbers.
Target them with live bait. Crabs, mullet, or shrimp should do the trick. Soft plastics are a great option here and can lead to an epic, exhausting day of fishing.
Whether fishing from shore or by boat, you’ll find plenty of access.
Big tarpon are more common along the beaches and like summer heat.
Plenty of charters, marinas, and boat rentals are available throughout the area.
Food, lodging, and tackle are also easy to find. Who doesn’t love some Florida coastal seafood for lunch? There’s plenty to be had in Ponce Inlet.
Jumping down the coast to Miami moves you into some of the best tarpon fishing in the world. Hungry silver kings are everywhere throughout Miami’s bays, inlets, canals, and lakes.
The best fishing starts in January and runs through July. The canals can have smaller tarpon year-round.
Open waters off the coast are teeming with schools of tarpon. Late spring is the perfect time to find these migrating schools. They’re constantly on the move, eating everything in their path.
Search the area with a live crab or shrimp. You’ll know right away if the tarpon are around.
The airport lakes have tarpon in good numbers. The lock systems allow tarpon, redfish, and snook to head inland. They get stuck in the lake when the lock closes.
You’ll find the pristine waters of Biscayne Bay just south of Miami. The best tarpon fishing here is in Biscayne National Park.
Shore anglers love the access at Blackpoint Marina. It’s home to a 1.5-mile jetty running straight into the bay.
The bay is prime for tarpon, snook, and barracuda. Throw in huge numbers of bonefish, and you’ve found an angler’s paradise.
Cape Florida and Key Biscayne can be excellent tarpon hotspots. You’ll need a boat to get there, but it’s worth the rental fees.
From Biscayne Bay, head south along the coast for some epic tarpon and bonefish action.
The Keys are possibly the most famous angling spot in the world. Saltwater fly fishing was basically invented here. Once you visit, you’ll understand why this is so.
Islamorada is right in the center of the tarpon migration route. That means the fishing here is nothing short of epic.
Massive schools of tarpon migrate through the open waters around the island. Toss some live bait like mullet, pilchards, or pinfish into the school and hold on tight.
Peak season around the Upper Keys is from April through June. Tarpon are around throughout the year, though late spring is the best time.
Head out to Buchanan Bank for some open water, or head to the flats. Other spots in the area house incredible numbers of tarpon, including Channel Bridges, Seven Mile Bridge, and Tom’s Harbor.
Plenty of lodging, dining, and bait shops are available on the island, though it can become crowded during peak season.
Key West is home to stunningly clear, shallow waters teeming with tarpon. April through June is the peak season, though tarpon are here year-round.
Key West Harbor might be the best spot around to catch your bucket list fish, while the Bahia Honda Bridge comes in a close second.
If you’re up for an adventure, set out for the Marquesas Keys. These uninhabited islands sit well beyond the end of the road in Key West.
So plan ahead and bring the right gear for a day on the water catching massive fish. You don’t want to be that guy a giant tarpon dragged around for two days.
There’s no shortage of tarpon in the flats around Key West, and the season can be excellent as early as January.
Key West also has plenty of lodging, food, and tackle shops. You’ll be able to find anything you need here.
The Gulf Coast has tarpon spread from Pensacola to the Keys. Some of the best places to find them range from Apalachicola in the north to the Keys and the Everglades in the south.
The best area to catch trophy tarpon in northwestern Florida is Apalachicola Bay. Once the water hits 75°, around May, the entire area becomes a hot spot for tarpon.
The summer months are the perfect time to head to this amazing bay. Surrounded by barrier islands and several state parks, it’s often referred to as Florida’s Forgotten Coast.
The top spot here is Indian Pass. It’s the westernmost drainage between the bay and the Gulf. Massive schools of baitfish cruise through this channel, inviting tarpon and anglers alike to snatch them up.
Find some wandering baitfish and toss a live bait in with them. Use a big circle hook and wait. You’ll know when the tarpon is on because your line will shoot across the water as the giant fish tears away from you. It’s an experience that can’t be beat.
The islands on the southern side of the bay have some extraordinary flats for fly fishing enthusiasts and live bait anglers alike.
Apalachicola has plenty of lodging, food, and gear. Plan on the bay holding your attention for at least two days. It’s massive.
The Everglades and 10,000 Islands
Tarpon migrate up the western coast of Florida from the Keys. Their first stop is the 10,000 Islands area of Everglades National Park.
Mangrove islands, creeks, rivers, and bays litter the area. So head out and catch some silver kings in what is likely the most unique fishing environment you’ve encountered.
The fishing here can be fast and furious. Waters here are darker and more tannin laden, which makes tarpon less likely to spook from an errant cast.
The unique combo of darker water and vast numbers of baitfish means the tarpon are easier to catch than almost anywhere else on the planet.
Sandy Key Basin, Rabbit Key, Lostman River’s mouths, Harney, and the Lake Ingraham Canals are great spots to start your search.
10,000 Islands is a vast maze, so setting your sights on a small portion will make your trip far easier to navigate. Hiring a charter is a good option.
Tampa Bay is another epic fishing ground. Take your pick among several famous islands and passes.
Anna Maria Island has multiple hot spots to test your luck. Hit Longboat Pass on the south end or Bean Point Pass to the north.
Bean Point Pass is famous for its tarpon runs. Its waters can hold over 10,000 tarpon during the peak season.
Head to Passage Key, just north of Anna Maria Island. It offers shallow, crystal-clear flats for epic sight fishing.
Egmont Key has two great passes, with the north being the main shipping channel. Right off the Key, there’s a 90-foot-deep section of the channel that almost always has great tarpon fishing.
Egmont Key also has fantastic flats between the passes. Tarpon move in and out of the passes with the tides. High tide along the Key offers unbelievable sight fishing opportunities. Millions of crabs get washed through the area, so it’s a good idea to use some as live bait.
A charter captain reportedly caught a tarpon weighing 340+ pounds in Tampa Bay. That size would shatter the current world record, but unfortunately, it never got an official weight on a scale.
Use live bait like threadfin shad, menhaden, pilchards, pinfish, and blue crabs. Big streamers and soft plastics are also good options. Different water situations will call for different baits, so be sure to hit the water prepared.
Besides big tarpon, Tampa Bay is known as a great place to catch big sharks.
Boca Grande, or in angler speak, Best Tarpon Fishing Spot in the World, is not to be missed. Plan far ahead or you’ll be lucky to book a guide in May or June, as this is the peak season here.
Anglers from around the world flock to Boca Grande every year to take their shot at the next world record tarpon
The Boca Grande Pass is one of the deepest waterways in Florida. It connects Charlotte Bay with the Gulf. Tarpon like deeper water, and the pass offers that in spades.
The flats surrounding the Crystal River drainage and Homosassa Bay are so full of massive tarpon that you could almost walk across them.
April is the beginning of this epic season, which runs strong through July. Again, May and June are the peak months.
Boat traffic can be overwhelming, but if you’re patient and get on the water very early, you shouldn’t have a problem finding a spot to fish.
The pass delivers a unique experience every spring. The “Hill Tide” takes place on the full and new moons. When this occurs, millions of crabs from Charlotte Harbor wash out to the Gulf to spawn. Tarpon take full advantage of this, and a feeding frenzy ensues.
If you manage to catch one of these tides, be ready for fast action. It’s also highly recommended that you hire a charter or guide for your first time fishing the pass.
This area also can be thick with snook if you’re looking for another great Florida gamefish.
These spots have great fishing and are worth testing out if you’re in the area.
On the Atlantic coast south of Jacksonville, St. Augustine has fantastic fishing from June through September. The rest of the year might deliver a few here and there, but the peak is when to fish here.
Tarpon are only one of the reasons to visit this amazing city. History buffs will love it, and anglers can catch several species in one day.
Nearby Jacksonville offers a similar peak season of June through September, though July and August are the best.
Test your luck near the Mayport Jetties while tossing live shrimp. The tarpon gather behind the shrimp boats for an easy meal.
If you find pogies (Menhaden) swimming around, follow them until the tarpon start smashing these baitfish from below. Toss a pogie and wait.
After tarpon migrate through Boca Grande, they end up in Clearwater near Tampa Bay. April through July can be fast action just offshore and in the channel.
Try fishing just off Clearwater Beach using big baits. Pinfish, shad, crabs, and large shrimp make great options.
St. Petersburg gets hot in May and continues through July. St. Pete Beach is an excellent spot for these prehistoric-looking monster fish.
The flats in the area are great for sight fishing. Tossing bait a few feet in front of a cruising tarpon is as exhilarating as it gets!
Tarpon Fishing Gear & Tactics
So now you know where to catch a tarpon. But are you carrying the right gear?
Silver kings are big, athletic fish that spend more time in the air than most pilots. Big, angry runs are followed by huge jumps with all the acrobatic moves you could imagine. Most tarpon throw the hook during these displays.
Hook into a 200-pound fish and watch in awe as it barrel rolls through the sky before landing on the line you let get too slack, and bam! It’s gone.
First off, it’s going to happen more often than not that you’ll lose them. That’s part of the game. Be prepared for it.
Second, bring the right gear: A strong 8- or 9-foot rod, high-end reel with excellent drag, and at least 20-pound test main line with a 50- to 80-pound leader.
Next, your choice of hooks matters a lot. The sharpest hook you’ve got might not be sharp enough. The best tarpon anglers often sharpen hooks straight from the package to ensure they’re sharp enough to get through the ultra-hard mouth of the tarpon.
Baits are another factor. Live bait is a standard go-to. Threadfin shad, menhaden, pilchards, and pinfish are excellent baitfish. Calico, pass, and blue crabs are all great baits, too. In addition, live shrimp are fantastic in certain situations.
Flies should be big, somewhere between 5 inches and 10 inches for streamers. Look for mullet in the water and toss a big white streamer. You’ll likely hook up with an absolute beast.
Soft plastics are another excellent option.
A rule of thumb when tarpon fishing: Tarpon Spook Easily!
You won’t find tarpon if you’re listening to the game on the boat stereo or rocking out to some Burl Ives. They’ve heard you from miles away and decided to take off to distant feeding grounds.
Instead, you’ve got to be sneaky. Most flats boat guides use a pole or an electric trolling motor to get within range. Keep this in mind as you cruise the flats at 30 mph. Slow and silent catches the fish.
Don’t set the hook immediately when a tarpon bites your bait. Wait for it to put its weight on the line before setting. If using a flyrod, wait for the pressure and then set the hook multiple times to ensure a hookup.
Florida is an epic fishing ground for tarpon. Even the most unknown bay or inlet will have tarpon at some point. That makes Florida the best tarpon fishery in the country, if not the world.