Megalops Atlanticus



Inshore, Flats, Backcountry

25 - 63 pounds

48" - 96"


Also Known As: Silver King, Silverfish, Sábalo  

Guides Who Fish This Species

Tarpon (Megalops Atlanticus)

A giant 6-foot Tarpon jumping several feet out of the water is a sight few anglers will ever forget! Head to Florida and southwest Florida, and the Florida Keys, where Tarpon fishing is the most popular. 

Description and Size

Tarpon have thin bodies covered with large flat scales. One of its more recognizable characteristics is its large lower jaw and mouth points upward. They are shimmery silver with blue-grey or greenish backs and dark fins and tail. The scales on top of the Tarpon body are darker than that underneath. This color makes it difficult for predators to see the fish when viewed from above or below. The tail has a deep fork, and the dorsal fin is elongated and thin. 
Tarpon can grow up to about 8 feet long and weigh up to 280 pounds, but the more common size is 4 feet and 80 - 100 pounds. Their lifespan can be up to 50 years or more. 

Interesting Facts

  • Tarpon are known for their acrobatics and can jump 10 feet out of the water and swim up to 35 mph.
  • They are close relatives to the Skipjack and Ladyfish.
  • Although they are edible, people rarely eat them because of their small, hard-to-clean bones.
  • Tarpon has been around for a long time - 125 million years kind of time!
  •  Tarpon are capable of filling themselves with air.  This gives it a predatory advantage when oxygen levels in the water are low.


Tarpon spawn offshore in warm, secluded areas, usually in late spring to late summer and with a full moon or new moon cycles. 
The sperm and egg are all released into the water in a process referred to as broadcast spawning. The female tarpons will release up to 12 million eggs at a time. Once the eggs are fertilized, they float on top of the water.  The eggs look like transparent ribbons, which make it difficult for predators to notice. The eggs will absorb the nutrients in the water through the skin. 
After hatching, they enter the juvenile stage, remaining in the shallow water until they have developed into an adult. 

Habitat and Distribution

Tarpon Distribution Heatmap

Tarpon live in a variety of habitats. They mainly occupy saltwater but also range in brackish water. They are primarily found in shallow coastal waters and estuaries, but not unusual if they appear in the open ocean close to coral reefs. 
Tarpon can gulp air at the surface when they are in an environment that doesn't provide enough oxygen.
You will find them as far north as New England and even occasionally in Canada in the summer months. Being migratory fish, you will find them in Southern Florida in the winter months. Their largest concentration is in South Florida and the Gulf of Mexico.


Tarpons are strictly carnivorous; they hunt mid-water fishes and swallow their food whole. 

Fishing Techniques - How to Catch Tarpon 

Although Tarpon can reach up to 280 pounds, heavy tackle is not required. A 5000 to 7000 size spinning reel paired with a medium weight rod is a high multi-purpose tackle for Tarpon fishing will be sufficient. The reel should be corrosive-resistant and have a smooth and robust drag to tame the fish quickly.

Fly fishing the shallow flats is exciting. Watching a school of the larger fish turn towards the boat, knowing you are one perfect cast from landing a giant tarpon, is exhilarating. An angler armed with a 10wt rod and a perfect cast leading the school of fish, stripping like mad to lure the large Tarpon. A few flies to try while fly fishing includes the Black Death, Purple People Eater, White Lightning, Tarpon Shrimp, Coker Smoker, and the Tarpon Toad. 
Their athleticism is one of the most fantastic attractions of Tarpon fishing. When the fish is hooked, it will use their muscular build and incredible speed to jump out of the water. Be careful; often, these jumps help the fish remove the hook.