Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach: Tarpon Fishing Capital of the World
The tarpon, known as the “Silver King,” is a prehistoric game fish known for its impressive acrobatics and size: they can reach up to 8 feet long and 280 pounds. The average weight of a mature tarpon is between 90 and 130 pounds, so even a “small” tarpon can present quite a challenge.
Each year from April to October—peaking in June—thousands of tarpon congregate in Charlotte Harbor and Boca Grande Pass as they migrate to and from their spawning grounds. Boca Grande Pass was named #1 on the list of The World’s Best Tarpon Fishing Spots by Sport Fishing Magazine in 2019, and it’s estimated that about 5,000 tarpon are landed each spring in the Pass alone. With plenty of professional fishing guides in the area, as well as a plethora of activities and tasty restaurants off the water, the Charlotte Harbor Gulf Island Coast is an ideal spot for a tarpon fishing vacation.
With a guide, not only is the fishing license handled, but compliance with the most current fishing regulations is ensured. Further, anglers are taken to tried-and-true locations, coached in the art of hooking a tarpon, don’t need to bring their own equipment, and importantly: the tarpon caught are less likely to be harmed.
Though they’re large and strong, tarpon are easily injured, especially after a long fight.
Tarpon is a catch-and-release-only species in Florida. The only exception involves the pursuit of an International Game Fish Association (IGFA) world record. In order to keep a tarpon and submit it for world record consideration, an angler must pre-purchase a tarpon tag before fishing. One tag per person/per year/per boat is issued.
When it comes to releasing, Florida law states that tarpon over 40” long (from the mouth to the fork of the tail) are not to be removed from the water. Fish under 40” may be taken from the water, as briefly as possible, and they should be lifted horizontally, with the head and belly supported. The tarpon’s weight can be calculated with minimal stress: instead risking damage with a hook scale, measure from the mouth to the fork of the tail and then around the body and plug the numbers into the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust Weight Calculator. The catch should only be handled with wet, clean hands, and the gills should never be touched. Tarpon should never be targeted from bridges or piers.
A fishing guide will also be skilled in reviving a tarpon before release. Anglers fishing on their own should review and follow best practices, such as jump starting a tarpon’s breathing by pushing the fish quickly forward through the water, and not releasing a fish that is rolled on its side or whose nose is pointing up or down, until it is balanced in the water.
Because of their size, strength, fight, and the skill involved in setting a hook and reeling one in, tarpon remain a dream catch for many anglers…a dream that has a good chance of coming true in Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach, the epicenter of the quest for a Silver King.
After the exhilarating challenge and adrenaline rush of any encounter with a tarpon and the pure joy of being out on the water, nothing feels better than the total relaxation and satisfaction of a cold drink and a hearty meal at one of the area’s stellar independent restaurants. Beautiful views abound, whether it’s a stunning sunset at a waterfront spot or local art, décor, and pure Old Florida architecture at an inland eatery.
Once revived by great meal, it’s time to enjoy the area nightlife, which includes everything from live music and dancing to nationally-known standup comedians and community theatre to rocking local joints full of friendly people. Get ready for the next day’s adventure in a clean and quiet hotel room, a cozy or spacious vacation rental, a secluded resort spot, or a nicelyappointed RV park.
For a truly well-rounded tarpon fishing vacation, Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach checks all the boxes.