Commonly referred to as Tarpon, or ox eyed herring, Megalops cyprinoides is a feisty northern sport fish species famous for their aerobatic displays when hooked. They are commonly encountered as a by-catch whilst targeting other more popular northern freshwater species, such as the barramundi but are extremely popular amongst fly anglers. Our Australian Tarpon is brother to the great Tarpon (Megalops atlanticus) of the Atlantic regions. The Atlantic Tarpon can grow to 2.4m and 160kg, whilst the Australian Tarpon grows to a maximum weight of around 2.5 kilos and around 60cm in length.
Tarpon inhabit most fresh water streams and tidal estuary systems throughout the entire top end of Australia. They have been recorded as far south as Sydney but are not a regular catch in NSW waters.
Tarpon can be easily recognised by their shiny, metallic like appearance and large under slung jaw. They have a large eye and a powerful forked tail capable of propelling this species from the water. The scales are also quite large providing great protection against the tarpons many predators.
Appearance – bright silvery body with large scales, trailing filament to the single dorsal fin, large black ox-like eye and hard bony plates to the jaw.
A fantastic target species for salt water fly outfits, which should be rated between 5WT – 8WT depending on the size of fish being targeted. Poppers and small surf candies work.
Another unusual aspect of the tarpon is the ability to gulp air at the surface and to breathe through their swim bladder. In most fishes, the swim bladder serves only as a buoyancy device, however, in the tarpon it has developed a respiratory function that supplements the gills. This allows the juvenile fish to survive in low-oxygen waters where fewer predators are found. Tarpon frequently rise to the surface and take gulps of air, which gives them a short burst of energy. This accounts for the characteristic rolling behavior of tarpon at the surface teasing and frustrating the angler.
Incidentally Tarpon is rated by A.N.S.A. (Australian National Sportfish Association) with a fighting factor of 1.6 (Barramundi is 1.5, Marlin is 1.2).