About This Fish

Tarpon


The tarpon (Megalops atlanticus) is also known as Atlantic tarpon and silver king. It belongs to the family Megalopidae under order Elopiformes of class Actinopterygii. It is primarily found in the warm, shallow, coastal regions of the eastern and western Atlantic Ocean. It inhabits coastal waters, bays, estuaries, mangrove-lined lagoons and rivers.



A tarpon has an elongated body with deeply forked caudal fin. Body is greenish or bluish on top and silver on the sides. It has large mouth which is turned upwards and the lower jaw contains an elongated, bony plate. The last ray of the dorsal fin is much longer than the others, reaching nearly to the tail. The anterior portion of the anal fin is deep and triangular. The tarpon has large pelvic fin and long pectoral fin each with 13-14 soft rays. Dorsal fin has short base which is positioned at mid length of body. The dorsal and caudal fins have dusky margins. The dorsal fin appears high anteriorly and contains 13-15 soft rays while anal fin contains 22 – 25 soft rays. Anal fin has longer base which originates posterior end at the level of the dorsal fin. Body is covered with large scales. 37-42 scales are present along the lateral line with ramified tubes. The juvenile tarpon is planktivorous while adult tarpon is strictly carnivorous and mostly feeds on mullets, pinfish, marine catfishes, Atlantic needlefish, sardines, shrimp, and crabs. It is preyed upon by bull sharks, hammerhead sharks, porpoises while the juveniles are preyed upon by piscivorous birds. It reaches sexual maturity at 6-7 years of age and about 1.2 m in length. The fish typically spawns in May, June, and July. The female lays about 12 million eggs. It can grow up to 250 cm in length and 161 kg in weight. The male can live up to 30 years while female up to 50 years.



Fishing methods are still fishing with live mullet, pinfish, crabs, shrimp, etc., or casting or trolling with spoons, plugs, or other artificial lures. The best fishing is at night when the tarpon is feeding. They are hard to hook because of their hard, bony mouths. Once hooked they put up a stubborn and spectacular fight, often leaping up to 10 feet out of the water. It was one of the first saltwater species to be declared a game fish