Fishing for Tarpon from the surf is not only possible but very feasible, if you know what you’re doing. Tarpon fishing is usually thought of as something you do out on the flats in about 2 or three feet of water. In the surf that’s not the case. Tarpon can be caught from the surf along the Florida coastline in the deeper water past the first sandbar.
Little is known about their migratory patterns. They have been found as far north as Nova Scotia even though Tarpon prefer warmer tropical and subtropical waters.
Aside from sharks, they are some of the hardest fighting fish you’ll ever catch in the surf. Florida is known for it’s Tarpon fishing and holds 29 of the world records with the current record caught there, using conventional tackle at 248 pounds.
This is not a fish to be taken lightly if you hook one. They can spool 250 yards of line off without even thinking about slowing down. Their jaws are like concrete and it’s often difficult to get the hook set. They jump when they’re hooked and fight hard. Tarpon will often throw the hook when they break water.
Tarpon have a preference for Ladyfish. If you are aware that Ladyfish are in the surf there’s a chance that Tarpon are nearby. They also like Bluefish and Stripped (Black) Mullet. In the spring and fall they are likely to be feeding on the migrating bait fish while they cruise through.
If your planning to target Tarpon you need a good sturdy surf rod spooled with at least 500 yards of 30# test or preferably 40# test. The rig should be an 8/0 hook on an 80# leader. For bait I recommend a Ladyfish hooked up under the mouth and out through between the eyes.
You need to find a spot off the beach where you can reach 6′ to 8″ of water past the sandbar at high tide. In the surf this is their territory. Out there you’re likely to catch a shark also.
In Florida you are not allowed to keep or kill Tarpon without a $50 Tarpon tag and the limit is two. Florida residents are allowed to fish from land without a license but must have the Tarpon Tag unless they fish “catch and release”. Non residents require a saltwater license.
Fishing for tarpon is a real challenge. If you think your up to it, go for it.