Key West Tarpon

The Tarpon is a large fish that is divided into two varieties: those that live in the Atlantic and Indo-Pacific Ocean dwellers. The Atlantic variety can be observed during a Key West snorkeling trip, although tarpons live in an area that spans from the waters off the coast of Virginia all the way to Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean.

As the largest species of herring, tarpons can grow from four to eight feet long. Their weight can range from 60 to 280 lbs. Found in both saltwater and freshwater environments, these fish can survive brackish water, waters with varying pH levels, and they can even be observed while emerging from the water to take a gulp of air, which provides them with a burst of energy.

A tarpon's diet can vary with age. Stage one juveniles absorb nutrients from the water via integumentary absorption while juveniles in stages two and three mostly consume plankton, but also eat small insects and fish. Smaller juveniles may be eaten by larger juvenile tarpons during this stage. By the time tarpons reach adulthood, they are totally carnivorous. They hunt their prey at night and swallow their food whole.

As a large fish that struggles greatly when caught, the Tarpon is one of the most prized game fish. However, most Tarpon are released after they are caught because they are bony and do not supply a large quantity of meat on their bodies.