Megalopidae - tarpons

Tarpon are elongate, somewhat compressed fishes having a very large upturned mouth with the lower jaw protruding past the upper jaw. Their dorsal fin is about midbody with the last ray very elongate. They can grow up to 8 ft long and weigh as much as 280 pounds. They are considered a great saltwater gamefish, generally because of their size and fighting ability. They can make spectacular leaps out of the water when hooked. The flesh is very bony, and it's not considered a good food fish. It is believed that there are two populations of tarpons in the Gulf, one from Florida and one from Mexico. One or both populations pass through Texas during its summer migration. It is unknown if they just pass through or are using Texas waters as a spawning ground.


The popularity of tarpon fishing began around Port Aransas in the late 1800's. Tarpon fishing tournaments were commonplace through the 1950's. In the 1930's and 40's Port Aransas was known as the Tarpon Capital of the World. In fact, one of Port Aransas' original names was Tarpon, Texas. Overfishing, damming of rivers, drought and pesticides are considered to be the catalysts causing the considerable decline in numbers of the species off Texas in the early 1960's (although the exact reason for the decline is still debatable). Thanks to conservative fishing regulations, tarpon are making a comeback and tournaments (catch and release only) have resurfaced.