Silver King by Kayak

By: Randy Morrow

It’s spring in the Keys, and that means (BIG) tarpon season is kicking into gear. The larger, migratory tarpon arrive in the spring and hang around until mid June when they continue their migration up the coasts of Florida.
Targeting large tarpon requires some forethought. Night fishing in a kayak for these brutes is asking for trouble. Please don’t take this task lightly! I strongly recommend fishing for these monsters during sunrise/daylight hours, with a buddy along in case things get dicey. Wear your PFD. These fish can commonly be 120 to 150 pounds and have strength and endurance that is shocking to the uninitiated. A big tarpon can easily tow you out to sea, or tow you miles from where you hook them, and this could last for hours in a light vessel like a kayak. Even though you’d love to get a picture with a monster poon to show your buddies, it’s not a good idea.
Fighting a tarpon all the way to exhaustion means the fish probably won’t survive the ordeal. And another player will show up sooner or later as you wrestle your big tarpon – Mr. Shark. As in 300-pound bull sharks and hammerhead sharks up to fifteen feet in length. If any of you doubt the seriousness of what I’m saying, just Youtube tarpon / shark / Florida Keys and you’ll see what a shark will do to a tired tarpon next to a power boat. Now imagine that type of thing in kayak. Yikes! So, I’ll rig my leader pretty light – 30# – and plan for the raspy jaws of the tarpon to wear through the leader after a few runs and jumps. Better for the angler and better for the fish. Another method is to use very thin hooks (“mosquito” hooks) and just tighten down your drag and point your rod tip at the fish and let them straighten the hook with their next surge.
Artificial baits will work for the big tarpon, and the trend lately is definitely smaller, both in lures and flies. But for some almost guaranteed action, live bait is hard to beat. My favorite live baits for the big fish in the channels are live pinfish and blue crabs. Since the big fish are usually in deeper water, I’ll rig a small float about 3 feet up the line from a 4/0 hook and drift the crab or pinfish along with the current in an area where the fish are rolling. Also, I like a monofilament main line for this to cushion the shock of the fish’s head shakes. Keep your attention focused because a big tarpon can easily yank the rod right out of your hand in this situation!
Other than sharks, big tarpon are the strongest, largest fish that us kayakers can target close to shore, so eat your Wheaties, grab your heavy rods, and go have some fun with these hard-fighting sport fish from your little plastic boat!

— Randy Morrow, Kayak Fishing Guide | Phone/Text: 305.923.4643 | Email: