Tarpon are one of the most fascinating marine game fish we deal with at Blue Line Fishing Charters. The species found here in the Gulf of Mexico and western Atlantic is Megalops atlanticus. The other species, Megalops cyprinoids, is native to the Indo-Pacific region. Atlanticus and cyprinoids are the only members of the Megalopidae family that have survived to the present day. ‘Megalops’ incidentally means ‘large eyed’; eyes are a prominent feature in both species.
Megalops atlanticus is most correctly referred to as the Atlantic tarpon to distinguish it from the Indo-Pacific tarpon but is commonly called ‘tarpon’. It has a dark blue or green back with distinctive large shiny silver scales along its sides. These scales are the reason for its other common name ‘silver king’.
Silver Kings are particularly noted for their acrobatic aerial displays during which those silver scales flash and sparkle in the sun. They also put up a good fight, which is why they’re one of our most popular game fish. If you fancy seeing one of these magnificent fish up close, consider booking a Cape Coral fishing charter through Blue Line Fishing Charters.
Adaptability And The Atlantic Tarpon
Atlantic tarpon prefer shallow temperate coastal environments like we have here in the Gulf of Mexico. However, they can tolerate a wide range of pH and saline levels, including fresh water, which makes them very adaptable. They also have a remarkable ability to utilize atmospheric oxygen courtesy of their modified swim bladder. This lets them survive in low aqueous oxygen environments. They just come to the surface and take in air through a connecting duct between their swim bladder and esophagus. However, they do this in well-oxygenated water too. Research has found that tarpon of all ages, not just juveniles, require access to atmospheric oxygen.
Adaptable though they are, tarpon do have an Achilles heel! They need warm water and can’t tolerate temperature drops very well. A sudden cold snap can, and has decimated tarpon numbers. So, when it gets too cold they head for deeper warmer water.
Tarpon are also noted for their size, and longevity. On average, mature adults are between 4 and 8 feet long and weigh 60 to 280 pounds. However – females can grow to 8 feet or more, tip the scales at around 350 pounds, and live for 50+ years! Males are slightly smaller but can still be impressively large, and live for 30+ years. They do take many years to get this big though because they’re very slow growing.
Atlantic Tarpon Spawning And Growth Phases
Tarpon don’t start breeding until they’re 6 or 7 years old. They prefer to spawn in warm, isolated offshore waters between late spring and early summer. Large females can release around 12 million eggs at a time.
After hatching, tarpon larvae go through 3 distinct growth phases. Notably, they have a leptocephalus ie transparent stage immediately after hatching, which lasts several months. During their first few weeks of life the transparent larva float close to the surface of the water in the spawning ground, absorbing nutrients directly from the water. Gradually the tidal currents move them into more protected environments close to shore where they enter phases 2 and 3 of their growth cycle.
The Best Tarpon Fishing Charters In Cape Coral Florida
Although a hugely popular game fish, they are also protected. They are strictly catch and release only unless you have a tarpon tag. Even then, commercial fishing is strictly prohibited. Blue Line Fishing Charters runs custom Cape Coral FL fishing charters for tarpon and other game fish.