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Tarpon

By TERRY TOMALIN, Times Outdoors Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 5, 2000


photo
[Times art: Earl Towery]

Often called the silver king of gamefish, the tarpon is a true tackle buster known for its spectacular leaps from the water. This giant of a fish can survive in a variety of habitats and salinities. It even will gulp air to help sustain it during a long fight.

Tarpon live long, 40 years or more. They are not valued as table fare in the United States, and as a result, most anglers practice catch-and-release.

In 1953, Florida officials established a fishing limit of two fish per day and prohibited their sale. In 1989, the Florida legislature established a permit system. By 1999, landings of tarpon had declined to fewer than 100 a year.

Statistics on the number of tarpon caught by sport fishermen are not precise, but one survey indicates that 50,000 to 88,000 tarpon were hooked (not landed, because many fishermen release their catch) by anglers from 1992 to 1995. They remain one of the west coast's most popular gamefish. It is illegal to buy or sell a tarpon. Anglers must purchase a $50 tarpon tag to possess or harvest.

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