What Makes Boca Grande the “Tarpon Capital of the World”

Boca Grande fishing - Tarpon school

Image courtesy of Albert kok via Wikimedia

Fishing charters in Boca Grande explain why high numbers of tarpon descend on the area each spring and summer

The Tarpon, or “Silver King,” is found throughout sub-tropical and tropical waters on both sides of the Atlantic basin. These feisty fish may not provide a meal, but they make up for it in vitality.

While you’ll find Tarpon in warmer waters from Florida through the Caribbean and over to West Africa, Boca Grande Pass, located 100 miles south of Tampa, has long been considered the “Tarpon Capital of the World.”

You won’t necessarily find the largest Tarpon in Boca Grande – that honor goes to Guinea off the coast of Africa where the current standing world record weighed in at over 286 pounds! Even Florida’s Tarpon record was caught farther south in the Keys.

What you will find though is the biggest concentration of Tarpon in one place. Continue reading to learn why so many Tarpon descend on Boca Grande Pass and thus gives the community its claim to fame.

Boca Grande Pass connects Florida’s second largest estuary system, Charlotte Harbor, with the Gulf of Mexico

To the surprise of many, Charlotte Harbor is one the largest natural systems of its kind in Florida. It is fed by the Peace and Myakka Rivers, which empty into the harbor which then empties into the Gulf of Mexico at Boca Grande Pass. The average depth at the pass is 70 feet.

If you look at a map of the Tarpon’s habitat, one thing you’ll notice is that it lies in warmer waters. Tarpon hate cold water, so they’ll either migrate farther south in the colder months or up into rivers and creeks in the bay.

However, once the water temperature reaches 75 degrees, the Tarpon begin migrating back into Charlotte Harbor and the pass. This usually occurs sometime in April. The sooner water temps rise, the earlier Tarpon will come back into Boca Grande Pass.

From here through the summer and into early Fall, the Tarpon fishery around Boca Grande provides the most incredible sport fishing available just about anywhere. May, June and July are considered the peak Tarpon season, but veteran anglers and charters will still be able to catch Silver Kings until cold fronts start arriving in the fall.

During the peak part of the Tarpon season in early summer, as many as 10,000 Tarpon will be in the pass at one time according to estimates from Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.

The reason for such large numbers of Tarpon in Boca Grande boils down to one thing in the end – FOOD!!

When Tarpon start getting more active after the winter, they’ve got one thing on their mind – getting some grub!

Starting in the spring, large numbers of threadfin herring, a popular bait fish and food for many species, begin migrating through Charlotte Harbor and Boca Grande Pass. The current at the pass can be strong, especially during tide changes. This back and forth action pushes baitfish in from the ocean, or out from the bay.

This of course leads into the other reason why so many Tarpon are around Boca Grande Pass.

In the early summer during certain tide changes, there is an over-abundance of crabs that are flushed out of the flats and into the pass. Known as the hill tide, they occur 2 days prior and 2 days following the full and new moons in the months of May, June and July.

These specific times are considered the peak of Tarpon season. On a given weekend, it’s not unheard of to see 100 or more boats around Boca Grande Pass fishing for Tarpon. Many charters recommend coming on a weekday during the peak season as the number of boats are about a third.

Just because the peak season passes after July doesn’t mean the Tarpon stop feeding. Veteran charters and anglers who really know the area understand the Tarpon will continue feeding into the fall. The silver kings need the sustenance for both mating and for getting prepared to migrate or hunker down for the winter.

Many Tarpon fishing charters around Boca Grande are not permanent residents of the area, and only come for the peak three months in early summer. More experienced charter captains who call this beautiful place home have both the knowledge to find good Tarpon during the non-peak part of the season and do it with the utmost respect for the resource.

Capt. Leighton Ingram has called Boca Grande home for his entire life and is intimately familiar with the annual Tarpon bonanza that occurs here. Click here to learn more about Capt. Ingram, Tarpon fishing in Boca Grande and how you can schedule an excursion today!

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