On the west coast of Florida a natural channel cuts deep through the pass between Gasparilla and Cayo Costa islands, creating a funnel that sweeps baitfish, shrimp and craps in and out of Charlotte Harbor. The pass is named Boca Grande, which is Spanish for “Big Mouth,” a description that could apply to its most famous seasonal resident—the tarpon.
Every year the tarpon migrate along the gulf coast of Florida and one of their favorite stopovers is the Boca Grande Pass. From late April to early August, thousands of hopeful anglers descend on the pass for the chance to chase the silver king, one of the most magnificent gamefish in the world. It is by no means a secret fishing spot, but if you do it right, you will be rewarded with the chance to hook and battle a 100-pound fish.
If you don’t know the area, your best bet is to hire an accredited guide. The Boca Grande Fishing Guide’s Association publishes a list. If you’re inclined to do it yourself, first become familiar with Florida’s specific regulations for tarpon fishing in Boca Grande.
In addition, the Boca Grande Guide’s Association has posted a “Rules of Boca Grande Pass” list that details the accepted etiquette for how anglers should handle their boats and the fish.
Because the boat traffic can get heavy at time, it’s important for any boater running through the pass to brush up on his or her seamanship skills. So refresh your expertise with these 10 Tips For Better Boating.
For great local knowledge, stop in either the Boca Grande Outfitters or the Gasparilla Outfitters. The will help steer you towards the best tackle to try and also what types of tackle to avoid.
The best way to get bait is to use long-handled dip-nets to scoop the live pass crabs that float through the pass on the tide. But you can also buy crabs and shrimp from Whidden’s Marina in the town of Boca Grande.
When the bite is off, there are some great restaurants to run to by boat, such as Barnacle Phil’s or the Cabbage Key Inn.
So go have fun and figure out why some people call Boca Grande, “The Tarpon Capital of the World.”