Fishing for Tarpon in Key West
Tarpon, or silver kings, are a common fish in Florida waters. They also look very unique with their slightly upturned faces, striking coloration and massive bodies.
These fish can grow to just over eight feet long and weigh as much as 350 pounds when fully grown. Their backs appear dark blue or greenish-black and they have brilliant silver scales coating their sides.
Generally, they live in estuaries, bays, coastal waters and mangrove lagoons but do travel into brackish or even freshwater sometimes. One odd biological adaptation of the tarpon is its ability to fill its swim bladder with air and use it as a primitive lung.
This species is found all over the Atlantic Ocean from Canada to Argentina in its extreme ranges and everywhere in between. It is also a common sight in the eastern Atlantic off the coast of West Africa.
The tarpon prefers warm, shallow waters. They generally stay close to the surface, only going as deep as about 100 feet. Should their habitat get chilly, they quickly abandon the area or face the possibility of dying off due to the temperature shift.
As juveniles, this fish feeds on plankton before graduating to fish and invertebrates. Adults enjoy feeding on needlefish, catfish, pinfish, mullets, sardines, crabs and shrimp. Tarpon feed both during the day and at night.
Their predators include porpoises and alligators, though sharks, mainly bulls and hammerheads, are the main threat to a tarpon. Larger plankton and small fish feed on the juveniles of the species. The fish spawns year-round but the peak spawning months are May through July.
Like most fish, these creatures migrate to offshore spawning grounds to reproduce. From there, currents eventually carry the fertilized eggs to inshore nurseries. Tarpon reach sexual maturity at lengths of four feet or by the age of six or seven.