How to Catch Tarpon: Top 5 Tarpon Fishing Tips

By Tom Keer

May 17, 2017

It's tarpon season, and part of what drives most tarpon fishermen's obsession is that more fish break off than are landed.  Tarpon get under your skin, they get in your blood, and fishing for them is addictive. 

Tarpon fishing season is upon us, and May and June are prime months.  Catching tarpon is challenging enough, but stiff winds make it difficult to cast as well as to spot fish.  The fish are on the move, and you'll find them cruising the beaches, swimming across the flats, daisy chaining in the deeper water, and laid up in the back country.  Here are 5 tarpon fishing tips to use on your next saltwater fishing trip.
1.  Sharpen your hooks.  Everyone wants to know how to catch a tarpon, and that's probably because only 37% of hooked fish are landed (source: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission).  The prime reason is their boney mouths makes for a tough hook up.  Sharpen your hooks so that when you draw the point across a thumb nail they stick.
2.  Set the hook. If you want to enjoy the tarpon's stamina, fight and jumps then set the hook.  And set it again.  Fly rodders use three strip strikes followed by three tip strikes to ensure that  the fly digs in deep.  Conventional anglers have shifted from monofilament to synthetic mono because there is less stretch in the line.  A few good sets drive the hook home and your odds of landing fish increase.
3.  Shock leaders are a must.  A tarpon's scales and gill plates are sharp, and a heavier monofilament shock leader gives anglers an edge.  Ramp shock leaders to 100# fluorocarbon so the fish doesn't cut you off.
4.  Bow to the fish.  Knowing how to catch tarpon is important, and when the tarpon jumps lower your rod tip.  You'll remove the tightness from your line and break off fewer fish.  Resume the fight once the fish is back in the water.
5.  Line management.  Tarpon can rush the boat just as fast as they can swim away, and that makes line management important.  Drags should spin smoothly with a perfect amount of tension.  A final tip on how to catch tarpon is to use as much drag as possible without breaking off the fish.  When the fish runs toward you reel quickly to recover the line and keep the pressure on your hook.
Tarpon fishing season is upon us, so find out why the fish is named the Silver King.  The best tarpon fishing this time of year is in Florida, so pack your bags in a hurry and get in on the action.
Tom Keer
Tom Keer
Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at or at