Boca Grande Tarpon and Beyond

by Captain Terry Fisher

The months of May and June bring the most spectacular, natural displays of fish migration to SW Florida, especially in Boca Grande Pass (‘Pass’). The ‘World’s Biggest Tarpon Migration’, in all its splendor in our back yard!  The ‘Pass’ becomes home to the best tarpon fishing on planet Earth. Whether a fisherman or not, the natural display of this wildlife beauty, at its finest, is worth a boat ride to the ‘Pass’ to witness. In May, thousands of these pre-historic fish make their appearance to mate, replenish, grow and survive.

This is the ‘Promise’ Land for big game hunters looking for the ‘Holy Grail’ or a ‘fish of a lifetime’. It is an experience of a lifetime to hook and land a huge tarpon. However, landing a tarpon is different from hooking one. Nonetheless, one will have a sense of gratitude once they experience the magnitude of the most fighting fish on the planet, if only for a short period of time! Many anglers try year after year with no success. The reason for failure is that it requires years of experience and knowledge to hook and land a silver king in the Pass. To do so requires one to re-learn to fish a totally new technique with nuances vastly different from all other presentations utilized for other inshore and offshore species. These huge fish are here to spawn and even though huge, have a gentle approach when it comes to eating a presentation. Understanding them makes all the difference in the world to be able to hook one up, let alone, land it.

I have spent the last 15 years learning the basics to take clients to Boca Grande Pass, to experience this awesome event. Over the years, I have hired and fished with the best Tarpon fishermen that I know to gain knowledge to provide the ultimate experience to those wanting to catch a huge tarpon. Fishing Boca Grande Pass is an experience within itself, it is not for the faint of heart or for those with physical disabilities.

Nonetheless, the title of my article is “Boca Grande Tarpon and Beyond” is just what it means! There are lots of opportunity for those that do not want to fish the ‘Pass’, but still want an opportunity to catch a tarpon of a lifetime! These fish will inhabit our estuaries from early April through June. The breeders are migrating for the Florida Straits up the Gulf of Mexico and will be anywhere from 50 yards off the beaches of the outer islands of Sanibel, Captiva, North Captiva, Cayo Costa as well as throughout Pine Island Sound and Charlotte Harbor.

In contrast to fishing the intimidating Boca Grande Pass, other great options remain just offshore as well as in Pine Island Sound and Charlotte Harbor. During the northern Tarpon Migration, there are literally thousands of tarpon pods infiltrating our waters allowing a more relaxing experience utilizing different techniques. Tarpon Hunters can avoid the crowded pass of Boca Grande and have an opportunity to enjoy and catch this superior fish species. Guides like myself fish both types of venues on a regular basis so as to accommodate both demanding and less demanding anglers. This being said, everyone can have a chance to catch their “Tarpon of a Lifetime”! Simply pick your pleasure and hire a guide with the qualifications to fulfill your requests.

During May, tarpon are not the only predominate species that one may consider targeting. Even though snook season is closed in our area they can still be fished, caught and released. This is the second most sought after fish to tarpon. They are plentiful and are everywhere. I prefer to free-line live sardines, herring or pinfish using light tackle with circle hooks off the beaches, under docks along the passes of Boca Grande, N. Captiva and Sanibel.

Seatrout are back and here in good numbers and sizes as well. They are also available for harvest. Be sure and check the FWC Guidelines to comply with the law. Light tackle will give anglers plenty of satisfaction catching lots of these in 4 to 5 feet of water on shrimp under corks over the grass flats.

Spanish mackerel and pompano may provide optional enjoyment in the passes, just off the beaches as well as in the grass flats while fishing for seatrouts.

Offshore, the waters are warming up and one may find lane snapper and mangrove in 55 or less foot of water over rubble and man-made reefs. However, to get to the bigger snappers and groupers, expect to fish waters with depths of 85-120 feet for keeper(s). The water will continue to warm and the warmer it gets the deeper one needs to target reef species.

This is Captain Terry Fisher with Fish Face Charters. In addition to my boat, I am also available as ‘Captain for Hire’ on your vessel (by the hour) to teach safety, navigation, fishing techniques and locations to catch fish both inshore or offshore. Check out my website at Email me at or call me direct at 239-357-6829 to book a charter on your vessel or mine.