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Florida

Saltwater Fishing

Tarpon Handling Tips

Practice Proper Fish Handling to Help Released Tarpon Survive

Tarpon are an iconic saltwater fish and are more likely to survive and evade predators when handled properly. Follow these guidelines to ensure tarpon remains the strong and viable fishery it is today.

  • Tarpon over 40 inches MUST remain in the water (unless in pursuit of a state or world record using a tarpon tag).
  • Keep the head and gills of tarpon submerged in as much water as safely possible.
  • Tarpon smaller than 40 inches should be supported horizontally when removed from the water.
  • Do not tow a tarpon unless it is necessary to revive it. If you must tow, go as slow as possible while moving water over the gills.

Use proper tackle

  • Use non-stainless, non-offset, barbless circle hooks with natural bait
  • Use single hook rigs and do not use treble hooks.
  • Use tackle heavy enough to land the tarpon quickly, which minimizes exhaustion and helps the fish avoid predators after release.
  • Use a dehooking tool to quickly and easily remove hooks from tarpon.

Other tips

  • Keep fingers out of eyes and gills.
  • Do not drag tarpon over the gunnel of a boat, or over rocks or a pier.
  • Do not fish for tarpon when large predatory sharks are in the area. If sharks show up, move to another fishing location.
  • The fish is not needed to make a taxidermy mount; measurements and photos will suffice.

Do not target from bridges or piers

  • Releasing tarpon from bridges or piers requires specialized lifting gear or cutting the line (which leaves long amounts of line trailing behind the fish, leading to entanglement).

For tarpon regulations, visit MyFWC.com/Marine and click on “Recreational” and “Tarpon.”

To learn more about catch-and-release techniques, visit MyFWC.com/FishHandling.

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