What spirit possesses the tarpon? A fierce fish, known to taunt fishermen by hiding in the depths, only to finally take the bait and thrash its way upward into trees, onto shore, and on occasion even onto a boat, the tarpon is a kind of living enigma, passionate and utterly unpredictable. Anglers remark that the fish’s tendency to struggle and its notable size tires them, but if they are honest with themselves, there is something in the tarpon’s fighting spirit that proves irresistible. Catching a tarpon is the true measure of a fisherman’s strength and soul; without tenacity, flexibility, and courage, a man can never hope to land such a fish.
Baby tarpons usually weigh under 15 pounds, while the majestic full sized silver king can register at 150 pounds or more. Different fishing wire is recommended for each size; a 20 pound line is best for the heaviest fish, while a 12 pound will do for the smallest versions. Research has shown that tarpons do not even need to the rise to the surface for air; they do it partly out of adolescent reflex, and partly because they like to. When they are in the mood, tarpons emerge onto the surface of the water in a process known as ‘rolling.’ Sometimes, they do it in groups, with many hundreds of fish popping up for a quick roll in the sun. To try and bait them during this process is an exercise in frustration; a tarpon can be a single-minded creature. When a tarpon is rolling, biting is generally not on the agenda. However, when a tarpon does bite, a fisherman will need every ounce of concentration to bring the fish in. The tarpon’s considerable size makes each jump and thrash a difficult weight to bear.
Fishing for tarpons in Puerto Rico is an especially pleasurable way to spend time and energy. Chartered tarpon fishing expeditions occur on a regular basis, and are recommended for those fishermen who are unfamiliar with the area. The San Jose Lagoon and the Torecilla Lagoon are favorite haunts of the fish, and offer a relative abundance of baiting opportunities for the reclusive tarpon. This is partly due to the fact that the lagoon covers a former airport runway, which provides a shallow channel 22 feet at its deepest point. Bait fish swim in these trenches, often attracting a squadron of tarpons who pursue them mercilessly.