It’s never too early to start planning a fishing vacation. Spring is the time for tarpon in Florida and there’s no better place to catch the silver king of sportfish than the waters off Sanibel Island. But why not fish for a cause this year?
Sign up for the Third Annual “Ding” Darling & Doc Ford’s Tarpon Tournament scheduled this year for May 3 and you’ll not only have the chance to walk home with a pocket full of cash, you’ll also get to swap fish stories with author Randy Wayne White who created the famous fishing guide turned private detective.
White, who has also written a non-fiction book on tarpon, created the Florida-based Doc Ford character after giving up on a career as a fishing guide. But don’t be mistaken. The crime novelist still knows how to cast a bait to pod of tarpon. While you are in the neighborhood, you might check out Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille with locations on Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel and Captiva islands.
Proceeds from this catch and release tournament will benefit J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island. The refuge’s waters are home to a variety of sportfish, including Megalops atlanticus. These predators will eat just about anything, but despite their large size, they feed on surprisingly small organisms, including mullet, ladyfish, pinfish, grunts, crabs, threadfin herring, scaled sardines and even catfish.
Anglers can live bait at schools of tarpon as they swim a few hundred yards off the beaches of Southwest Florida. The fish sometimes travel in pods of 100 or more. Small groups are often observed swimming in circles, or "daisy chaining," a courtship ritual. Female tarpon are the larger of the species and can achieve lengths of 8 feet and weigh more than 350 pounds.
Biologists believe some tarpon may live to be 60 years old. The largest tarpon on record was caught in 2003 off the coast of Africa and tipped the scales at 286 pounds. The largest tarpon caught in Florida weighed 243 pounds. To learn more about the tournament, go to www.dingdarlingtarpontourney.com.