By Buck Davidson
This giant silvery denizen of the Suncoast flats and passes is one of our most sought-after species. The gamefish profile on the Silver King is purposely short, since Capt. Robert McCue's four-part series Tarpon Guide Shares Secrets is a magnificent and detailed portrayal of his favorite quarry. McCue provides a great deal of insight into the biology and lifestyle of tarpon, as well as some invaluable advice for those interested in pursuing this classic gamefish.
First, the negative: tarpon are no good as table fare, and the big ones are only around the suncoast for about eight months out of the year. No one that's ever hooked one of these hundred-plus pound ballistic missiles wants to hear anything negative about them, though. From that first searing run to the series of acrobatic twists and turns that characterize their fighting style, the tarpon is a prototypical gamefish. In suncoast waters, they commonly reach 150 lb., but the world record is nearly 300. The flats around Homosassa have produced numerous tippet-class flyrod record tarpon, a fact which has earned these waters a hallowed place among fly fishing destinations.
Tarpon face a bright future, as the reasons to kill them are rapidly dwindling. Anglers desiring a mount for the wall can now photograph, weigh, measure and release their catch. "Release mounts" are stunning in detail and do not deteriorate like skin mounts. Some tarpon tournaments now feature in-water scales, to allow the fish to be weighed without it being brought aboard the boat. The fish is then released unharmed.
The prospect of fighting a big tarpon is among the most compelling reasons anglers have to travel to Florida. The recollection of that giant silver fish and the marvelous things it can do will shoulder its way in among your fondest of angling memories. Enough from me - go visit Capt. Rob's articles and catch the fever.