[Page updated: 28 January 2021]
Tarpon fish (Megalops atlanticus) are plentiful, and yet they are heavily regulated in Florida because they don’t really have any culinary value. Nobody is eating tarpon because they have a strong taste and smell, and they’re difficult to clean because they have so many bones. Tarpon are a game fish – and that’s all they’ll ever be. Thing is, they’re one of the most exciting gamefish we have in the water – so they’re frequently targeted by saltwater anglers in Florida, Texas, Georgia, and other states. Read about the Florida Fishing Regulations governing Tarpon Fishing below.
Florida State Tarpon Fishing Regulations
There are overall regulations which apply to both the west coast waters (Gulf of Mexico) and the eastern side of the state – the Atlantic Ocean. Then there are additional restrictions placed on fishing in the Boca Grande Pass – and they delineate the area with GPS coordinates. You can bet they have time to enforce it as well. I can’t tell you how many times I was approached by the Florida Marine Patrol to check my kayak for what I was keeping in my storage area. Stick to the regs because the fines are ludicrous and may put you off fishing in the ‘Sunshine State” again if you do the wrong thing.
Tarpon Fishing Rule #1 Tarpon fishing is catch-and-release ONLY. There is no daily creel limit, and there is absolutely no taking of tarpon for eating, or anything else. No tarpon may be kept by anglers during any part of the year – with one exception – you may buy a tag. See Rule #2.
Tarpon Fishing Rule #2 A $50 tag may be purchased prior to landing a large tarpon which you want to keep and present to officials for a tarpon fishing record with the International Game Fish Association (IGFA). Tags are limited to one per person. In the case of keeping a tarpon to submit for a record, there can be only one such tag per boat.
Tarpon Fishing Rule #3 Tarpon over 40-inches must remain in the water at all times during catch and release. That includes body, head, and gills. This is to protect the tarpon from having their body weight cause damage to internal organs as they are very heavy and there is no proper way to hold them without potentially causing damage. You probably wouldn’t want a 7-foot long tarpon in your boat either – they have phenomenal energy and have been known to knock people out of boats and cause injuries. Tarpon under 40 inches, when lifted out of the water, must have their body supported horizontally.
Tarpon Fishing Rule #4 Hook and line fishing only. No nets. No other means. No gigging, etc.
Tarpon Fishing Rule #5 Treble or any multiple-point hooks are forbidden while trying to catch tarpon. Single hooks only.
The official Florida Fishing Regulations are summarized in this chart (©Myfwc.com).
Boca Grande Pass Extra Regulations
Boca Grande is absolutely full of tarpon during some months of the year, and the Florida Fish and Game Commission has created additional regulations to cover this area between certain GPS coordinates (an irregular hexagonal shape – see graphic below).
GPS COORDINATES DEFINING BOCA GRANDE PASS for the Purpose of Tarpon Fishing
GPS Coordinates in Easier to Copy/Paste Text-based Format:
- Concrete Pier: 26° 43.165′ N; 82° 15.778′ W
- Phosphate Dock: 26° 43.216′ N; 82° 15.517′ W
- Intracoastal Waterway: 26° 43.216′ N; 82° 14.703′ W
- Charlotte Harbor Channel LB 6: 26° 42.299′ N; 82° 16.551′ W
- QR Test Buoy: 26° 42.002′ N; 82° 15.448′ W
- Flashing Green: 26° 42.299 N; 82° 14.580′ W
Video – Tarpon Jig Restrictions for Boca Grande Pass
“Fishing with gear that has a weight attached to a hook, artificial fly or lure in such a way that the weight hangs lower than the hook when the line or leader is suspended vertically from the rod is prohibited. This change will apply to fishing for all species year-round within Boca Grande Pass. If this gear is on board a fishing vessel while inside the boundaries of the Pass, it cannot be attached to any rod, line or leader and must be stowed. Natural bait is not considered to be a weight. If the jig fishes in an illegal manner it is prohibited. Any jig that allows the attached weight to slip down the shank so that it hangs lower than the hook while the line or leader is suspended vertically from the rod is prohibited, and must be stowed so it is not readily accessible.” – MYFWC.com, from the YouTube video description accompanying the above.
Those are some of the basic regulations for fishing for Tarpon in Florida but there are plenty more which can be found here.
Florida State Saltwater Fishing License
Everyone fishing for saltwater fish must have a Florida Saltwater Fishing License unless you’re 16 or younger or have some exception because you are over 65. If you thought the Boca Grande fishing restrictions above were a minefield to get through – wait until you see what they want you to wade through to reach a decision about whether you need a fishing license or permit! Info here.
If you’re lucky enough to be under 16 yrs old and can prove it with ID – then you don’t have to worry about any sort of fishing license. Everyone else… just click that link above and try to figure it out. We cannot be of any help. It’s a ridiculous set of restrictions and exemptions that, if you don’t speak the language – you’ll be completely lost.