What Is the Biggest Tarpon Ever Caught? (Finding Your Record)

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Video what is the world record tarpon

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced angler, catching a tarpon is hands down the most exhilarating experience you will ever get while fly fishing. The silver king, also referred to as the tarpon, is known for its acrobatics when caught. This species can jump over 10ft into the air, so you should always expect an exhilarating experience when fighting a tarpon.

Tarpon love water temperatures ranging between 74ºF and 88ºF. Therefore, I always consider the water temperature when looking for a prized tarpon. Proper planning, research, and the right gear always come in handy when tarpon fishing.

The Biggest Tarpon in The World (According To IGFA)

The world’s biggest all-tackle tarpon recorded by the IGFA is the 286 pounds 9 ounces tarpon caught by Max Domecq. Max captured this massive tarpon in 2003 at Rubane, Guinea-Bissau; it is certified as an 80 pounds class record.

A Little Bit About Tarpon

Tarpon belong to the genus Megalops, and they are the only members of the Megalopidae family. Identified by its bony throat plate and an elongated last dorsal fin ray, the tarpon is closely related to ladyfish and bonefish. The tarpon has thick, large, and silvery scales on the western Atlantic coast from Brazil to Virginia. Tarpon can also be found on the eastern parts of the Atlantic coast from southern Angola to Senegal. (source)

Tarpon can survive in both freshwater and brackish water habitats. They can thrive in brackish water’s varying pH and places with low oxygen content thanks to the swim bladders, which allow them to breathe. Their habitats vary with developmental stages; you will find the stage 1 larvae stage in warm, clear, and oceanic waters. You can find stages 2 and 3 in the rivers, creeks, tidal pools, and salt marshes. (source)

Guide Tip: If your plan is to hunt Tarpon with a fly rod, you’ll need to have the right flies in your fly box. Read my article on The Best Flies for Tarpon

How Old Is a Tarpon?

Generally, tarpon have a lifespan of over 50 years, with the oldest in captivity being 63 years old. So, to determine the age of a tarpon, you have to count the rings on its scales. After all, the scales developed a new ring every year, increasing its length.

the scales developed a new ring every year, increasing its length.

Age in YearsLength of Tarpon (cm/ in)Weight of Tarpon (kgs/lbs.)

Chart link: https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Atlantic-Tarpon-(Megalops-atlanticus)-exhibit-upper-Kurth-Peebles/13212299a79bbc88c6b94195b787201fa67fa0c0/figure/0

Where Can I Find the World Record Tarpon?

Rubane, Guinea Bissau – Home of The World Record

Rubane is an exceptional fly fishing destination situated in Guinea-Bissau with about 165 people by 2009. As one of the 88 Bijago’s islands, you’ll find Rubane in the northern parts of Bubaque island. In fact, many consider it a part of Boloma-Bijago’s Biosphere Reserve in the Atlantic Ocean off Guinea-Bissau’s coast. (source)

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Bijagos Archipelago guarantees you an exotic fishing experience, and the fact that there are some exceptional hotels means that you can have a great fishing holiday. But make sure you have a powerful fly rod weight of between 10wt and 12wt to tackle this robust species.

Marathon, Florida

Marathon is a memorable fishing destination spread over Grassy Key, Crawl Key, Long Point Key, Fat Deer Key, Boot Key, and Knight’s key islands. World-class accommodations surround Marathon, boasting features like turquoise waters and white-sand beaches. Besides picturesque surroundings, Marathon has lots of fun and relaxing activities you can do, including fly fishing. (source)

This city is known for its explosive tarpon fly fishing experience, perfect in specific channels and on the flats. Off-shore fishing is quite popular in Marathon, and it’s the most effective method for catching massive tarpon. So, make sure you’re well equipped for the task ahead; after all, it is going to be an unforgettable moment. Remember, most line class world records were caught in Marathon, Florida.

Key West, Florida

Together with the Stock Island, Sunset Key, Fleming Key, and Dredgers Key, the Key West Island forms the northernmost city in the contiguous U.S. that’s referred to as the Key West city. This island is part of the Florida Strait, and it’s about 1 mile wide and 4 miles long. It’s on the southernmost end of the United States Route 1. (source)

The Key West is home to some of the biggest fishes, including Tarpon, dolphins, tuna, and sailfish. Therefore, you should be prepared for deep water fishing if you go past the reefs. Unfortunately, off-shore fishing is limited by boats. The best fishing time for all the different fishes in the water runs from March to the end of May.

Sebastian, Florida

Sebastian is an American city situated in the County of the Indian River at the confluence of the Indian River and the St. Sebastian River. Sebastian is located 2 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. The city is reliant on the tourism industry; therefore, it’s home to some of the best resorts in the region. Sebastian is near numerous scenic and natural areas like the Sebastian Inlet State Park. (source)

Sebastian started as a fishing village in the 1800s, and things haven’t changed much over the last few centuries. Sebastian is still an exceptional tourism center and a fishing destination for Tarpon and other massive fishes. In fact, Sebastian is Florida’s premier saltwater fishing spot where anglers can catch their dream fishes.

Google Map Link: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Sebastian,+FL,+USA/@27.79219,-80.5152622,10858m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x88de6872ae1398fb:0x177a6be767162472!8m2!3d27.816415!4d-80.4706078

Big Tarpon in The News

In 2021 Joshua Jorgensen, the host of the Blacktip fishing show, went to Colombia to try and catch something during the legendary sardine migration but ended up hooking the biggest tarpon ever. Unfortunately, he released it before weighing it, but it is estimated to weigh over 312 pounds. So, if it had been weighed using an approved scale, it might have broken the record set by Max Domecq in 2003.

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Several news websites, including the USA today, captured the news, so you can find out more by visiting the following link: https://ftw.usatoday.com/2021/07/is-this-the-biggest-tarpon-ever-caught-it-just-might-be.

Techniques For Finding Monster Tarpon Close to Home

If you suspect that there is tarpon in the local waters, you should ask around in the local fly-fishing shop. Or you can visit your home town’s Natural resources Department’s website for more details. And if there are no tarpon in your state, then you may end up targeting the landlocked tarpon.

If you live in a state where tarpon is available, you can do your research and find out where and when is the right time to start fishing. With the correct information and gear, you can end up catching a massive tarpon.

Tips For Catching Big Tarpon on a Fly Rod

When looking to catch a prized tarpon on your fly rod, you should always use the right fly rod weight. A 10wt to 12wt fly rod can manage the power and weight of massive tarpon. You can use a 12wt salt-HD 1291-4 in freshwater and saltwater lakes. Plus, it is strong enough to help you fight an enormous tarpon.

Your choice of the line also matters a lot! So make sure you get a fast sinking line like the amplitude grand slam and a reliable reel like the Sage Fishing Spectrum Max. This reel has a reliable drag system to keep the grit, salt, and sand out. Both left and right-handed anglers can also use it.

Favorite Tarpon Fly Fishing Technique

Fly fishing tarpon in the flats is 90% hunting and 10% fishing, so I always try the dead drifting technique after spotting the tarpon. Tarpon waiting to ambush all the drifting crabs can pick up a fly just like any other trout. This technique works perfectly, and it can help you catch a massive fish in the deeper parts of the water.

Favorite Flies for Tarpon

Generally, tarpon are gamefish with no peer; therefore, you shouldn’t underestimate this fish as it will give you a fight of a lifetime. Consequently, it would be best to have the right bait that won’t spook the tarpon when cast. In fact, the correct bait can easily attract tarpon. So here are my favorite flies:

Tarpon Tapas

Tarpon Tapas are stealth flies with a small profile that makes them stand out. In fact, it is one of the few baits that can work with the fishes that are easily spooked. But make sure you use a long leader when looking for a wary fish. Personally, this bait stands out because of the following reasons:

  • It is easy to tie
  • It is small in size
  • Available in a wide range of color combinations (source)
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Cockroach

Even though some baits have gone out of style, some fish species like tarpon don’t know it yet. And of all the streamers angles have used over the years, the cockroach holds its own, especially in Florida Bay. The main reason why the cockroach works include:

  • Tarpon can eat this bait when shrimp is on their menu
  • It can attract a tarpon without spooking it (source)
  • Available in more than one color combination

Tarpon Toad

Guides developed this excellent bait in the Key West and Islamorada. Folks throw different flies to fishes in these regions, so the guides noticed that tarpon preferred the Tarpon Toad. Therefore, they created an imitator which works perfectly. Here is why:

  • It’s available in several color combinations
  • It works in different seasons
  • It makes some unique movements that resemble the real Tarpon Toad (source)

Get Out and Cast a Fly to Some Tarpon

Tarpon are exceptional fighters that can guarantee you an exhilarating fishing experience. This powerful species can thrive in both brackish and freshwater lakes and rivers. It can even survive in brackish water with low oxygen concentration, and the only thing you have to monitor is the temperature of the water. If the temperature deviates beyond 74ºF and 88ºF, then it might not be the right time to fly fish.

Tarpon, Redfish and Snook

True trophy fish can mean being in the right place, with the right flies, setup for success. Below are some articles to guide you to a TROPHY

  • Snook, Reds and Tarpon can be found all over Florida. Read where to go in this article > Where to Fly Fish in Florida
  • How big do Tarpon, Redfish and Snook get? Read about the BIGGEST Caught > TARPON , REDFISH and SNOOK
  • Casting a Fly to Snook is amazing. Read about How to Fly Fish for Snook and the Best Flies for Snook
  • Both Tarpon and Redfish can haunt the same waters. It’s just a matter of selecting the right flies. Check out The Best Flies for Redfish

Sources

  1. Wikipedia contributor, Tarpon, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarpon, Accessed February 20, 2022
  2. Britannica contributors, Tarpon, https://www.britannica.com/animal/tarpon. Accessed February 20, 2022
  3. Wikipedia contributors, Rubane, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubane/ Accessed February 20, 2022
  4. Wikipedia contributor, Marathon, Florida, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marathon,_Florida/ Accessed February 20, 2022
  5. Wikipedia contributor, Key West, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Key_West/ Accessed February 20, 2022
  6. Wikipedia contributors, Sebastian, Florida, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sebastian,_Florida/, Accessed February 20, 2022
  7. Umpqua contributors, tarpon-tapas, https://www.umpqua.com/tarpon-tapas/ Accessed February 20, 2022
  8. Umpqua contributors, Cockroach-brown, https://www.umpqua.com/cockroach-brown/ Accessed February 20, 2022
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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>