5 things I hate about you, Tarpon Edition

My experience with tarpon is still “light,” but since when have I let that stop me?

  1. You make me stupid. When I see a tarpon I instantly lose half my IQ. I do stupid things. I forget the things I know about what I need to do. I flail. I fail. I am constantly humbled.
  2. Distance and Cost. There was once a bonefish caught in the SF Bay (I’m not kidding), but there has never been a tarpon in the Bay (although there is one at the California Academy of Sciences). Alas, you are soooo far away and it costs a lot to get there and do that.
  3. The redneck cult of destruction. Boca Grande and the Hell’s Divers… ugh. There just seem to be a lot of d-bags out there who want nothing more than to get that picture with a dead, dying or profoundly mishandled tarpon.

    That just sucks.

    That just sucks.

  4. I don’t know enough. That’s right, I hate tarpon a bit because they make me insecure. I fear what I don’t understand. Should I throw a 10 wt.? 11? 12? Floating line? Clear tip? Should I throw a 1/0 or a 3/0?
  5. Your damn hard mouth. When you eat a fly like that it should stick. I find your boney, hard mouth an insult to the sport of fly fishing. When I stick you well and you jump and then just spit the fly back at me… well… I find that disrespectful of me and what I’m trying to accomplish. All I’m saying, tarpon, is you could stand to be a little less selfish with the spitting of the hooks and your general propensity for coming unbuttoned. Good day sir. I said good day!
Adrienne got the photo. I got the photo of the photo.

The one that got away, Florida, 2013. Photo Adrienne Comeau.



  1. Did you see the article in FFSW this month about the Hell’s Divers? Not sure how I feel about that . . . science is wonderful, but those are awfully big fish that won’t ever be caught again . . .

  2. I’m sure most of your readers know that when you say “Boca Grande,” you are referring to the damage caused by snaggers and the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series (PTTS). That said, there are plenty of conservation-minded, ethical fishermen and guides who fish Boca Grande, and who are working hard to save the fishery. It does them a disservice to use “Boca Grande” for shorthand when you really are– in my opinion, rightfully– calling out the bad behavior of certain, distinct groups and practices.

  3. True on Boca Grande… they’ll likely make the list of things I love tomorrow.

  4. The singular piece of good news about that dead tarpon photo is that the fancy technical dive costume the guy is wearing is ruined. Not that that is anything close to a fair trade off. But if you hold a tarpon against your clothing like that the slime rubs off and won’t wash off. And the smell will be unmistakable, especially if the fish has been in fresh or brackish water.

  5. This is a good piece, the only phrase that bothers me is : “I find your boney, hard mouth an insult to the sport of fly fishing.” I tell you, bonefish are my favorite fish to catch, but I really love catching tarpo. They are magnificent fish, and really tough to catch, as you say, and those bony hard mouths really make them the perfect fly rod quarry, because they’re tough, unedible, and yes, they make us look so stupid.

    I think it was in Donald Larmouth’s book (Tarpon on Fly) where I read there are tarpon in the Pacific side on the Panama Canal. They made ir through the canal all the way to the pacific, because they’re survivors, and are actually reproducing on that other ocean, so probably in some years you might be able to catch some in SoCal and Baja. Who knows.

    About the rednecks killing big tarpon, I totally agree with you.

  6. Rogrigo, I assure you, that was said in jest. Tarpon are amazing and I am deeply in awe of them.

  7. As someone who’s fished in and around Boca Grande since I was born (ouch – 36 years!) I didn’t take offense!

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