Glades Gorilla

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Chad (age 19) hooks his first tarpon in Chokoloskee, Fl.

If you want to experience the ultimate in Florida game fishing without having to go offshore then tarpon has got to be your target species. Tarpon are legendary creatures in our waters and they’re as close as you can get to catching a dinosaur with a rod and reel. I had heard countless stories from my dad and his fishing buddies about close encounters with this fish years before I had ever even seen one with my own eyes.

The Atlantic tarpon is so well known and sought after here that it carries with it many nicknames; the silver king, shiner, silver sides and my favorite the glades gorilla are a few of it’s many handles. Tarpon have been recorded at over 8 ft long, weighing over 350 lbs and will fight an angler to it’s death trying to get away. They inhabit coastal tropical waters (sound familiar?) and start to show up in numbers around April and May. They can be caught all over the state, but one of the most famous is definitely Boca Grande Pass, which ironically is spanish for “Big Mouth”. Tarpon congregate here and gorge themselves on the multitude of baitfish and crustaceans swept in by the strong current. This fish defines the word “legendary”. Another great place to hear your reel sing is in Islamorada, that’s where I hooked and boated my first tarpon.

Tarpon2

Chad at age 39 finally lands his first tarpon in Islamorada estimated at 150 lbs.

Want to catch one? Unless you’re a seasoned saltwater angler, I recommend you hire a guide. Tarpon are a very tricky species and a guide’s years of experience hunting them is well worth the money. Guided fishing trips targeting this species range from $400 for a half day to $1300 for a full day were you are pretty much guaranteed to jump a nice tarpon and thus, reach an almost unparalleled level of outdoor sportsman status (at least among your friends).