They grow 5 to 8 feet long and up to 280 pounds, and they are known for their jumping ability.
Tarpon are very popular game fish, because they are huge, and because they jump and put up a fight. Luckily for the tarpon, they are bony and not good to eat. Consequently, tarpon are generally caught and released.
We think catch-and-release must be pretty traumatic for the fish, but not nearly as traumatic as catch-and-have-for-dinner.
Mom and dad don't fish, but for reasons not fully understood, mom LOVES to feed tarpon. We think perhaps she is part fish.
Smart tarpon like to hang out at Robbie's Pier in Islamorada, in the Florida Keys. They hang out at Robbie's because this is where people come to feed them. For $3, you can get a bucket of small dead fish to feed the tarpon. Mom thinks it's the best and cheapest fun to be had in the Keys. But she can't stop at one bucket.
|A tarpon opening up its mouth for a fish|
Sometimes, if you aren't quick enough, a tarpon will chomp down on your hand or arm. Mom and dad have seen a tarpon get a guy above the elbow. But they don't have teeth (if they did, tarpon feeding wouldn't be nearly as popular). The inside of their mouths is like sandpaper -- or mom says more like rough pavement. So it doesn't feel good to be "bitten" by a tarpon, but you probably won't lose a limb or digit.
This is my mom feeding tarpon.
|Mom demonstrating proper tarpon feeding technique|
|Mom feeding tarpon|
|Mom feeding tarpon|
|I think you can see the little fish in the tarpon's big mouth!|
This is my mom's tarpon-feeding injury, incurred on our last Keys trip.
She said it was totally her fault because she didn't let go of the fish and pull her hand back quickly enough. And no, she didn't stop feeding them after this. She still had half a bucket of fish to go. Then she got another bucket.
She described her tarpon "bite" as a mild abrasion, much like road rash from a bicycle accident. But she was a little concerned about infection, not knowing what kind of nasty bacteria might lurk in a tarpon's mouth. She didn't get an infection, but the scar was very itchy and red as it was healing. She went to the doctor because she thought it looked odd. Her Richmond, VA doc laughed and asked, "so you're asking me if this is what a tarpon bite normally looks like?"
He gave her a prescription for a steroid cream and said if the scar still looks bad in a couple months he will refer her to a hand plastics specialist. But mom won't go. She doesn't mind the scar at all -- to her it's a reminder of the Keys and the amazing tarpon and other creatures and clear blue water. She believes she is now one with the tarpon.
And she has promised me and dad she will be more careful next time she feeds them.
Note: Although I frequently blog about dog-friendly places and activities, this is not one of them. I am not allowed to accompany mom and dad during tarpon feeding because they fear I might freak out when a 200+ lb fish jumps up out of the water at my mom's outstretched arm. And I would. And so would any other dog with good sense.
I'm still trying to figure out why it's bad for me to jump up for a treat, but when a tarpon does it, mom thinks it's really cool.