At Sanibel Sea School, we love to teach people about the sea – and all of the creatures that live in it! So starting today, we are going to dive a little deeper into the realm of ichthyology by exploring some our favorite fish in our “Fun Fish Friday” series.
To kick off the series let’s talk about one of Sanibel’s local legends - the stunning Silver King, more formally known as the Atlantic Tarpon (Megalops atlanticus). This majestic giant can weigh up to 280 pounds and may reach lengths of 8 feet! Not only is this fish the size of a small shark, it also puts up a pretty mean fight – that’s why it is one of the most popular game fish here in Florida. The tarpon singlehandedly brings in $174 million per year in The Everglades National Park and The Florida Keys Flats fisheries, and we don’t even eat them! That’s a pretty good financial incentive to protect their habitat.
Tarpon are fish on the move. They spend the winter in the toasty Caribbean waters and migrate to Southwest Florida when temperatures rise. Avid anglers pine away for the first full moon of the spring because that means the tarpon have made their journey back to our inshore waters. Around Sanibel and Ft. Myers, you can commonly find tarpon in San Carlos Bay and in the Caloosahatchee River, and fishermen close behind.
As if tarpon weren’t cool enough, they also have the ability to use their swim bladder as a lung, an organ usually used by fish as a buoyancy control device. Tarpon normally use their gills to obtain oxygen from the water, but when they live in more anoxic environments, such as freshwater ponds or The Everglades, they are able to take a big gulp of air at the surface of the water to fulfill their oxygen needs.
And while we’re on the topic, join us in wishing Doc Bruce, Ben Biery, Elizabeth Farnham, and Caitlin Smith luck in the J.N. “Ding” Darling & Doc Ford’s Tarpon Tournament next weekend. All of the proceeds from this tournament directly support efforts to conserve our marine ecosystem in the “Ding” Darling wildlife refuge. Find out more about the Tarpon Tourney here.