Only two species of tarpon comprise the family Megalopidae—the familiar Atlantic tarpon and the Pacific tarpon (a.k.a. oxeye herring). The Pacific version is nearly identical to the Atlantic, but it grows to less than 10 pounds. The Atlantic “silver king” can easily exceed 200 pounds. Atlantic tarpon are being caught with increasing frequency in the Pacific, along the coasts of Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica, having transited through the Panama Canal. It is suspected that the popular game fish are breeding in estuaries along this area of Central American coastline.
Tarpon are tropical/subtropical coastal dwellers, frequenting nearshore reefs, beaches, bays and estuaries. They can gulp air at the surface, taking it into their swim bladder (no other marine species can do this). Tarpon can then “breathe” that air, assimilating it from the swim bladder by rows of lung-like tissue. This allows tarpon to thrive in low-oxygen waters where other predators cannot. The IGFA all-tackle world record, weighing 286 pounds, 9 ounces, came from Guinea-Bissau on the western coast of Africa in 2003.