World Class Fishing
Tarpon congregate and spawn out of passes along most of the entire rim of the Gulf of Mexico. The massive attraction to Boca Grande Pass is unknown and subject to many theories. In the spring, it appears that many of the fish’s habits all along the coast are in orientation to Boca Grande Pass. With depths reaching near 80 feet, it is the deepest natural pass in Florida. It is the only major outlet of Charlotte Harbor that is fed by two major rivers, the Peace River and the Myakka River. As the bottleneck of the harbor, the currents are strong and serve as an underwater highway for many species of fish and bait.
Harpooning tarpon is documented back to the late 1700s by British settlers. There is some debate among historians on who caught the first tarpon on rod and reel in Florida. The fish gained fame from an 1885 story published in the magazine Forest and Stream. The article detailed an event that took place on March 12, 1885. On that date, a New Yorker named W.H. Wood landed a 93-pound tarpon at the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River. While it may have not been the first tarpon caught on rod and reel, the fish’s capture generated much publicity and is at least credited as exposing tarpon fishing to the world. Soon after, tarpon were given a game fish status to protect them from harpoons (known as “striking” or “graining”) and nets that were common methods of taking tarpon.
In the late 1890s, a then modern railway system was completed that gave the area access to the outside world. Soon sportsmen from the north as well as from Britain flocked to the area in quest for giant tarpon. Southwest Florida and the Florida Keys soon became the new headquarters of the sport fishing world. Fishing tourism grew even bigger when in 1908, Barron Collier built a “Tarpon Inn” on Gasparilla Island and made the island’s town of Boca Grande world famous as the “Tarpon Fishing Capital of the World”.