There are two species of ‘Megalops’ (tarpon), the Megalops atlanticus and the Megalops cyprinoides.
The Megalops atlanticus can be found along the western Atlantic coast from Virginia, USA to Brazil, throughout the coast of the Gulf of Mexico and throughout the Caribbean. It is also found along the eastern Atlantic coast from Senegal to Angola.
Megalops cyprinoids can be found along the eastern African coastline, throughout southeast Asia, Japan, Tahiti, and Australia.
Tarpon are true giants, with huge silver, mirror-like scales, large mouths and big eyes – almost like a giant herring. They thrive in both salt and freshwater habitats, often travelling into rivers to access freshwater lagoons and marshes. Tarpon can survive in brackish water and in waters of varying pH, as well as habitats with low dissolved O2 content due to their swim bladders which they use primarily to breathe with.
It is actually quite common for young Tarpon to stay in freshwater. As they progress from the juvenile stage to adulthood, they can move back to the open waters of the ocean, though many remain in freshwater habitats. As for where to catch Tarpon, they be found anywhere from the backwaters near the surf line to well over 160-foot depth with 60-foot depth most common.
For these reasons, if you are fly fishing for Tarpon, we recommend that you consider 12 or heavier anti-reverse reels with matched weight 9ft or 10ft rods with fighting butt extensions. Your reel should be loaded with at least 200 yards of 30lb backing. You will need various sinking tip lines to get your fly down into the feeding zone. The shock leader should be 80-100lb monofilament and your flies for Tarpon should be 3/0 to 6/0 hook size.
If you are lure fishing for Tarpon, we recommend you use a reel like the Abu-Garcia Ambassadeur 7000C, or something comparable, loaded with at least 200 yards of 20lb mono or 30lb braid. Leaders should be 80-100lb mono. A 7ft casting rod with a long handle works well. The rod should be able to cast 2oz lures or a little heavier and should be stiff enough in the backbone to set the hook hard or walk the fish around the boat, but have a soft enough tip to finesse a wild fish for an extended time. Tarpon have hard mouths and are famed for acrobatically throwing the hook – which is all part of the fun of fishing for these magnificent fish.
Spinning tackle requirements are much the same as for bait casting gear. In either case, a reel with a smooth drag system and a rod with a nice, stiff lower section helps to handle these fish. Don't hesitate to try out your own lure selections. One never knows what might be irresistible to these big fish.
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