BTT: Best Practices for Catch & Release Tarpon Fishing

These best practices are provided by our friends at Bonefish & Tarpon Trust.

This tarpon season, we strongly urge you to practice these recommendations for the health of the fish and the fisheries.

Tarpon > 40” Fork Length


  • Do not remove them from the water. This causes too much damage and stress, and decreases their chances of survival.
  • Minimize the time you handle the fish next to the boat before release.

Tarpon < 40” Fork Length


  • Minimize handling, since this can remove protective slime from the fish.
  • If you handle a fish, use clean wet hands.
  • If you hold the fish out of the water, support the fish beneath the head and belly.
  • Minimize exposure to air.
  • When taking a photo, get the shot set up before removing the fish from the water. If the fish is not still dripping water in the photo, it has been out of the water too long.
  • Avoid using mechanical lip-gripping devices on active fish, since this can cause jaw injury.

All Tarpon


  • If a tarpon’s weight is desired, measure the length and girth and use the chart to estimate weight.
  • Keep fingers away from the gills; damaged gills make it hard for the fish to breathe.
  • If a fish loses equilibrium (it rolls over or goes nose-down on the bottom), revive it until it can swim upright, then shorten the fight time on future fish.
  • When reviving a fish, be sure that water passes over the gills from front to back. Move the tarpon forward or hold it upright in the water allowing it to pump water through its gills.
  • In warmer water, reduce fight and handling time.

Fight Time


  • Keep the fight short. Long fight times result in an exhausted tarpon, which is more vulnerable to predators.
  • Use tackle that matches the fish and conditions.



  • When fishing with bait, use circle hooks.
  • If a hook is deep within the throat, cut the line as close to the hook as possible this causes less damage than removing a deeply-set hook. Most fish are able to reject the hook or the hook dissolves over time.



  • Since predators can decrease survival of fish after release, when predators become abundant and appear to be attracted to your fishing activity, consider moving to another fishing location.
  • If a shark appears while you are fighting a tarpon, break the tarpon off so it has a chance to escape the shark before it is too tired.

Bonefish & Tarpon Trust strives to conserve and restore bonefish, tarpon and permit fisheries and habitats through research, stewardship, education and advocacy.

Through science-based approaches, BTT is working to protect and enhance healthy, functioning flats fisheries and habitats in the Western Hemisphere, and restore those in decline. This work is being done in collaboration with other institutions and governments.

To learn more about BTT’s conservation efforts, click here.

To join, donate, or get involved, click here.