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Feeding Tarpons In The Florida Keys: The 3 Most Popular Spots To Explore
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One of the most popular activities that attract visitors from near and far is feeding tarpons in the Florida Keys. People crowd the docks of the marinas in the Keys where the enormous inhabitants of the deep congregate can be fed, sometimes by hand.

There are a lot of things to do in and around the Florida Keys. If feeding tarpons is not for you, you might enjoy other activities like boating, hiking, and manatee sightings.

What Is A Tarpon?

Before learning more about the joy of feeding tarpon in the Florida Keys, let us first introduce you to the tarpon fish as explained by the Florida Museum

The tarpon or Megalops atlanticus can reach lengths of more than 8 feet and weigh more than 350 pounds. They have somewhat rounded faces and soft, lobed fins. They appear dark blue or greenish black from above, or even brassy if they have been in inland waters, but they may be identified by their incredibly glossy silver sides that are covered in sizable scales. 

They inhabit mangrove lagoons and bays, and they can go up rivers into freshwater. Additionally, they can and frequently do need to swallow air to receive more oxygen. Sport fishermen admire tarpon for their fight rather than their meat, but stringent laws protect them. Thus, if you’re more interested in fishing, you can always try kayak fishing in the Florida Keys.

The Importance Of Tarpons In The Florida Keys

Tarpons cannot be bought or sold for profit in Florida. The tarpon is a big industry for charter captains in terms of recreational fishing. Many of these guides in the Florida Keys earn the majority of their income during the peak tarpon migration months of April through June. 

To own a tarpon, a recreational fisherman must get a tarpon tag, which must be bought before the catch. However, most tarpon guides and anglers respect the tarpon and seldom hurt the fish while releasing it.

Learn More About Feeding Tarpons In The Florida Keys

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The Florida Keys is undoubtedly the tarpon fishing capital of the world. But there’s something more interesting about the tarpons in the island chain – you can feed them by hand!

On rare occasions, a tarpon will actually emerge from the water in a dazzling display of silver and green to eat the fish from your hand. It’s amazing to see! If you throw a bait fish among them, the water churns as these creatures compete for the snack, creating quite a spectacle.

We’ve listed the three most popular spots where you can enjoy feeding tarpons in the Florida Keys.

Robbie’s of Islamorada

Robbie’s is the most well-known location for feeding tarpons in the Florida Keys. The main attraction at Robbie’s Marina is the opportunity to view 50–100 large tarpon swimming around the dock in shallow, clear water. You must pay $2.50 to use the dock, and an additional $4 will provide you with a bucket of fish parts to throw to the fish. 

Do you know the story of the tarpon named Scarface? The owners of Robbie’s noticed Scarface wallowing in shallow water more than twenty years ago. Robbie found the fish’s ripped-open jaw when he sought to move it into deeper water.

According to the narrative on Robbie’s website, he called a friend for help, who used twine and a mattress needle to repair the jaw. Scarface was hand-fed for six months in a tank before being released back into the wild. But not exactly. 

Scarface returned repeatedly. He then started inviting his pals, and they were all so happy to be fed. That’s when Robbie’s took it as an advantage to feed the fish and make it entertainment for visitors. Every day, people swarm the dock in amazement at the tarpon convention.

After feeding the tarpons themselves, you can replenish your energy at the Hungry Tarpon Restaurant. You can also enjoy other waterfront dining spots across the Florida Keys.

Sunset Marina Key West

Right beside Sunset Marina’s Ships Store, they have docks where they manually feed tarpons. They have a cast of colorful characters that hang out right at the filet tables throughout the year and wait for a handout. 

There are occasionally 30 to 200 tarpon, weighing between 10 and 150 pounds. The fact that these tarpons are treated as pets and are never fished for makes them obliging creatures to the people who come to feed them. It can be lots of fun for children and anyone who enjoys feeding fish!

Tarpon Basin at Aquarium Encounters - Marathon

At Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters, the park entrance cost includes access to the Tarpon Basin exhibit. This program offers visitors the chance to watch tarpon being fed from the comfort of dry land and the possibility to buy fish to feed the tarpon directly.

Visitors are welcome to buy feed the enormous “Silver Kings.” They can have a close-up view of the powerful, wild Florida Keys tarpon feeding in its native environment. Your entire day can be spent in Tarpon Basin at Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters.

Feeding Tarpons In The Florida Keys FAQs

Smaller bait fish like mullet and sardines are favorites of tarpon. They will also gladly eat worms, crabs, and shrimp. You can purchase a bucket of fish from Robbie’s that contains 5 to 8 pinfish. You must pay $2.50 to use the dock, and an additional $4 will provide you with a bucket of fish parts to throw to the fish. 

Right beside Sunset Marina’s Ships Store, they have docks where they manually feed tarpons. They have a cast of colorful characters that hang out right at the filet tables throughout the year and wait for a handout. 

There are occasionally 30 to 200 tarpon, weighing between 10 and 150 pounds. The fact that these tarpons are treated as pets and are never fished for makes them obliging creatures to the people who come to feed them.

The park entrance cost at Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters in Marathon includes access to the Tarpon Basin exhibit. This program offers visitors the chance to watch tarpon being fed from the comfort of dry land and the possibility to buy fish to feed the tarpon directly.

Visitors are welcome to buy feed the enormous “Silver Kings.” They can have a close-up view of the powerful, wild Florida Keys tarpon feeding in its native environment.

Regulations for Florida tarpon apply to federal waterways. One tarpon may be transported or shipped per person for the tarpon that has been tagged. One tagged tarpon per vessel is the limit.

Tarpons are edible. However, due to their meat’s abundance of tiny bones and rumored lackluster flavor, people rarely eat them.

The only exemption to the catch-and-release rule for tarpon is when one is harvested or taken into possession while being pursued for a state or the entire world and in conjunction with a tarpon tag. One tarpon tag is allowed per person per year (except for charter boat captains).

A person may temporarily own a tarpon for the purposes of photography, length and girth measurements, and scientific sampling, but any tarpon longer than 40 inches must stay in the water.

Tarpon fishing is best done in the early morning. Lowlight conditions are ideal for tarpon fishing because these fish mostly feed at night. Most fishing excursions leave for the water before dawn to ensure that you are in the right place when the sun rises.

Even though nighttime offers some of the best tarpon fishing, it can be difficult to catch tarpon at night.

Janelle
Author: Janelle

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