The Fight Isn’t Over When You Get a Tarpon Boat-Side

4 comments / Posted on / by


Continue applying pressure on a tarpon when you get it to the boat. Photo Louis Cahill

Catching a tarpon on the fly is a feat most fly fishers dream about but never experience.

Some fly anglers get lucky right out the gates, but for most of us, catching one of these beasts on the fly often takes several trips to accomplish. My good friend Capt. Bruce Chard is one of the most competent tarpon guides I know and has taught me a great deal about chasing the silverking. When he put me on my first 125 pound plus tarpon he made a point to let me know that the fight isn’t over when you get a tarpon boat-side.

Bruce Chard explained to me that many tarpon photography ops are lost as well as rods are broken because anglers stop applying pressure on the fish once their guide gets a hand on the leader. Tarpon are extremely powerful fish and challenging to handle. To help your guide seal the deal when you get a tarpon to the boat, continue applying strong pressure on the fish with your fly rod until your guide has a firm grip on the jaws of your tarpon. Otherwise you’ll stand a good chance at losing the fish at the boat, miss your photo  op and fail to properly revive and release your tarpon.

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter!

Follow Gink & Gasoline on Facebook:

4 thoughts on “The Fight Isn’t Over When You Get a Tarpon Boat-Side

  1. I have never fished for tarpon. It is still a bucketlist item. So I was wondering…

    Might it not be also a good idea to explain the best technique – and give helpful pointers – for ‘maintaining the pressure on the line, while not risking…
    a) breaking the line;
    b) ‘whacking’ or impaling the guide should
    1_like break;
    2_hook pull out/break/tippet break/etc;
    3_rod break.

    There is a lot of potential energy, with large fish and tight quarters. A considerable amount of energy can be accelerated in a small area, at close-quarters by a large fish like a tarpon. Making the point-of-release a very likely spot for potential disaster given a few avoidable errors in judgement.

    Just wondering. Thanks for a very good post… and an excellent point-to-ponder .. on any large fish. -AOF

  2. Good post Kent. My experience bears out your point about handling a ‘poon and that the fight can resume at any time. I had a tarpon boat-side face to face with me as I leaned over the gunwale of the flats boat with my hands on either side of the bucket mouth “controlling the fish” while my guide readied the camera. The first pic was the tarpon ejecting upward into my face. I had a scraped side of the face, but it could have been a broken nose or worse if I did not turn my cheek and give ground. But the fish was perfectly fine after the encounter.

  3. To answer your question Les- Yes, all of that can happen. Not to mention a million other things resulting in injury to you and/or the guide. Big Tarpon are held in high esteem for a reason.
    Kent makes a very good point that getting the photo is tricky.
    However, something I really like about Tarpon fishing is that many people consider getting the leader into the rod tip or having it touched by someone counts as a landed fish. You don’t get that trophy photo op, but by counting a leadered fish a landed fish the Tarpon is put through a lot less stress.
    Typically you can get a fish to the boat in about 15-20mins if fought properly, after that it’s another 20-40mins of brutality to get the fish to where you can hold it (often resulting in a finger or gaff going completely through their lower jaw.)
    For me personally, the best part is the eat and then the chaos that happens in the next minute or so. After that you are just playing tug of war.

  4. I just caught my first Tarpon on a fly a few weeks back. I never did get the “Hero” pic as the guide wanted to keep them in the water. I was bummed at first but after he explained what can go wrong I understood. I got some pics of him releasing the fish and that was good enough.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Captcha loading...