Gulf to Bay Fishing School- Promo-St. Pete Boat Show-Tropicana Field-15MAR08


In the 1980s it was estimated that Florida anglers were intentionally killing 5,000 to 8,000 tarpon annually. During the 1988 legislative session, state lawmakers passed a permitting system that requires anglers to have a $50 tag to possess or harvest a tarpon. In 1989, the state recorded the sale of 963 tarpon tags and by the fiscal year of 2006-07 the number of tags sold fell to 294.


A decade later, tarpon records began to shatter along the gulf coast. In 2001, Capt. Steve Kilpatrick guided Jim Holland Jr. to a 202.5-lb. tarpon that toppled a 19-year flyrod record of 188lbs and is the first recorded tarpon over 200lbs taken on fly. In 2005, Capt. Kenny Hyatt guided Terry Sopher to a 216-lb tarpon that is recognized as the largest tarpon ever taken during a Boca Grande Pass tournament. In 2007, Capt. Ernie Rubio guided Al Willis to a 233-lb tarpon that is holding as the largest tarpon taken in the 73 year old Suncoast Tarpon Roundup. Remarkably, Willis fish edged out Tim Deacon’s 222-lb. fish for the win.


While these tarpon were caught using various methods, the key factor for catching a giant tarpon is more likely related to timing in the progression of the tarpon’s reproductive cycle. Most giant tarpon are females. As tarpon migrate to the shoreline in the spring, the females begin to develop and hydrate their eggs until the fish is “ripe” and ready to spawn.  A fish in this stage of reproduction will be carrying extra weight sometimes in excess of 30 lbs. which is often the difference between a tarpon and a giant tarpon.


At the Gulf to Bay Florida Fishing School, I’ll share some insight on finding, fishing, catching, tracking and documenting giant tarpon along Florida’s Gulf Coast.


Capt. Robert McCue can be reached at (800) 833-0489 or through his website,