Friday, October 22, 2021

Following the Megalops Atlanticus

Courtney and her first Tarpon.

Courtney and her first Tarpon.

By Capt. Pete Rapps

As this column is titled “Follow the fish”, I am doing just that right now….. I am following the Megalops Atlanticus….. aka “Silver King” or most commonly referred to as TARPON!

Each summer giant Tarpon gather in huge schools in different areas around the state of Florida, as they have done for centuries before we even started to fish for them. They are on their annual spawning migration and arrive hungry and ready to eat. Tarpon are considered by many as the most incredible and ultimate game fish available. To experience a Tarpon’s violent head shaking and it’s raw strength as it leaps 10’ out of the water, is simply one of the most amazing adrenaline rushes out there!

Although I am not headed there, the single most popular Tarpon hot spot is Boca Grande Pass, located just to the north of us here in southwest Florida. Boca Grande is the deepest natural pass in Florida with depths reaching 80’. It is estimated that 5,000 Tarpon are landed in the pass each season making it the single busiest and most productive Tarpon fishing spot in the world.

I on the other hand, choose to head south to follow my Tarpon. I head to the Keys….. more specifically the Marathon & Big Pine Key area. The Tarpon are just as plentiful there, just a little more spread out. It is not uncommon for us to catch several Tarpon each day in the 80 – 125 lb range, some up to 200 lbs. I really enjoy the more laid back approach to fishing there. In the Keys I never find myself inside a mosh pit of adrenaline filled anglers fighting over one school of fish. We find ourselves more spread out, and have great success doing so.

We use all spinning rods and heavy baitrunner reels filled with braided line. Since we fish bridge areas,

Posing with the catch before release. Photos by Capt. Pete Rapps

Posing with the catch before release. Photos by Capt. Pete Rapps

the braided line has been successful in saving many fish that run along one of the many bridge columns. Our baits vary from live Pinfish, Mullet, Crabs, Thread Herring, cut bait, and some artificials. I like to use fluorocarbon leader and large circle hooks. The circle hooks seem to give us the most productive hook up ratio, and will always lip hook the fish. We never have a problem with gut hooking them.

All of the Tarpon we catch are brought boatside for a quick photo before taking our time to make sure the fish is fully revived before we release them free unharmed. It is not common practice to pull a caught Tarpon into the boat for a photo anymore. We like to be as gentle on them as possible. Tarpon are considered a prized sport fish and are never taken for food. When a client wants a mount of a fish, we take measurements and photos of the fish, and have a custom fiberglass replica made as their trophy.

I will be following the Keys Tarpon right now during the months of May and June. If you always wanted to catch one of these beauties, now is your chance. Come follow the Tarpon with me! My website has all the info including my availability booking calendar. NOW IS THE TIME!…. Come follow the Tarpon with me!

Capt Rapps has been fishing the Chokoloskee area for just over 20 years. He offers expert guided, light tackle, near shore, and backwater fishing trips in the Everglades National Park, and is happy to accommodate anyone from men, women, & children of all ages, experienced or not, and those with special needs. Pete is extremely patient and loves to teach. You can book a charter right online 24/7. See his online availability calendar, booking info, videos, recipes, seasonings, and first class web site at www. or call 239-571-1756.


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