Can You Eat Tarpon Fish or Not? (Precautions To Take)

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tarpon fish good to eat

Tarpon, also widely known as Silver King, Sabalo, and Silver Sides, is a remarkable fish. They are beautiful, important for the ecosystem, and trophy fish.

But, there might be a common misconception that you can’t eat tarpon, and this can spark a question in many people’s minds about whether can you eat tarpon or not.  

Tarpon is thought to be a smelly and one of the least tasty fish to be fished. It is also considered a potential health hazard, and most people avoid eating it because they think it is poisonous.

But, this should be common knowledge that tarpon is fully edible, and anyone who wants to eat it can eat it without any reservations. The only issue people encounter while eating tarpon is its strong smell and the many bones, making eating this fish a hassle.

We can say that the fish is more trouble to eat than pleasure. But, it is still eatable, and here is what you should know about eating tarpon.


Can You Eat Tarpon Fish Raw?


Most people can’t eat tarpon cooked, and you want to eat it raw? Technically, you can eat it raw, but it won’t taste very good.

So, if you decide to eat the fish raw, you should catch one from the saltwater or buy a saltwater tarpon because saltwater can wash away all the germs and parasites from the skin of the tarpon.

can you eat tarpon fish

If you can’t find a saltwater fish, don’t eat it raw because the germs on its body can harm you. You can also freeze the tarpon before eating it raw so that any remaining germs on its body die.

 We don’t find raw tarpon on the sushi menu because very few people like to eat it raw. However, it would be best to remember that a tarpon is a smelly fish and a raw tarpon is smellier than a cooked tarpon. 


Is It Safe To Eat Tarpon?


Yes, the tarpon is totally safe to eat (you can also eat it without deboning). But, the safest way to do it is to ensure you thoroughly cook it at at least 145 degrees.

Cooking them properly will kill any body harming parasites that may spread foodborne illnesses in your body. Cooking will also kill some of the fish’s odor and make it eatable.

Again, there is a great emphasis here on getting a saltwater tarpon for yourself if you want to eat it raw or cooked because only saltwater has the properties to remove dangerous germs from its body. The fish is completely edible and safe to eat, just like any other fish (trout or salmon).

More reading: Can you eat goldfish? A look at its nutritional value


What Does Tarpon Taste Like?


Now that we are past the question of whether can you eat tarpon fish or not, it is time to discuss other things like its taste. But, as you already know that the taste of tarpon is not something to die for.

People who go out and catch their own fish for eating have complained that the fish is smelly and has a smelly and weird taste.

image of a cooked fish

Here we are talking about freshly caught tarpon, not the store-bought one because the store-bought is smellier than the fresh fish. On the other hand, most fish connoisseurs consider tarpon’s meat close to other bonefish like trout (obviously not entirely like trout).

This might make one feel that tarpon is too much hassle to catch, prepare and cook. But, I think eating tarpon is an experience other fish don’t provide.

Tarpon’s meat indeed has a fishy taste and a million bones (pun intended), making it less enjoyable to eat. But, with the right ingredients and technique of cooking, you can make the fish taste good and the whole food enjoyable to eat.

Suggested read: How to kill a fish humanely?


How To Eat Tarpon? (The Best Way)


Like other fish, there are many ways by which you can eat tarpon. Honestly, how you eat depends on how you like your fish.

But, since tarpon is smellier than most fish, many people poach them to debone them easily or make fishcakes out of them to kill the smell. These are also the two ways of eating tarpon that we will discuss. 

Poaching Tarpon

 Now that you have caught a tarpon or bought one from the store, it’s time to poach it to make it eatable and less smelly.

Fill a pot with chicken or beef broth, bring it to a boil, and put the pieces of fish fillet in the pot (you can also cut them into small pieces to cook them equally). Put in some of your favorite spices like cloves, star anise, peppers, etc.

Once the broth starts boiling, turn the heat down, and once the boiling becomes simmering, let the fish cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Finally, take the pot off the heat and let it cool. Once cooled, remove the fish pieces from the pot and put them on a plate. 

Now you can take out the bones and serve them. Or you can eat it as it is and take out the bones while eating. 

Making Fishcakes

So, if you want to move a step forward and make a unique dish out of it, you can make tarpon fishcakes. We will continue our recipe for fishcakes from where we left it from poaching. 

You need to remove the bones of the poached tarpon. Put the fish in the food processor and pulse it till it becomes coarse (don’t turn it into a paste). Take the fish meat out and put it in the bowl, and add the following things:

  • One chopped onion (medium)
  • Five green peppers in 
  • Three pounds of mashed potatoes
  • Four egg whites 
  • One tsp garlic powder 
  • One tsp mustard
  • Two tsp paprika
  • One tsp cayenne pepper 
  • Salt and pepper to taste.  

Mix all the ingredients and then put a handful of flour on your kitchen counter and also take some in your hand. Now roll the mixture into a ball and press it in the palm of your hand to give it the shape of the cake. Keep repeating until all the batter is finished. 

Now take a pan, put two tbsp oil in it, and take 2 of your fish cakes to fry on high heat. Since your fish is already cooked, you only need to brown each side of the cake equally. Once they are golden brown from both sides, 

Repeat until you are done, and put all the fried cakes on the paper towel to soak the oil.  These were the easiest and the most delicious ways of cooking a tarpon. I hope you enjoy it!


Can You Eat Tarpon In Florida?


Of course, you can eat tarpon in Florida. The state doesn’t ban people from eating tarpon but restricts common people from strictly catching and releasing the fish. You can be heavily fined if you take the fish out of the water and don’t put it back in, especially if you don’t have a permit.

image a tarpon fish in water

However, you can catch some tarpon from the waters of Florida for eating if you have a special permit, and you will also find shops there which sell tarpon. 

However, you should ensure that you only eat a wild-caught tarpon and not farm-raised ones because of the germs and parasites that live on its body. Apart from this, the only reason why people of Florida don’t eat it is its taste, smell, and too many bones.  


Are Australian Tarpons Good To Eat?


Yes, like all the tarpon of the world, Australian Tarpon is also good to eat. They are considered one of Australia’s most elegant and trophy fish, which is why they are served all over Australia’s restaurants. Australians are the only nation that actually loves eating tarpon.

This is how we know Australian tarpons are good to eat. Some restaurants also serve tarpon raw in Australia, and instead of asking if this tarpon fish is good to eat, you should ask the chef if it is caught from saltwater or is farm-raised.

If the fish is farm-raised, then you shouldn’t eat that raw tarpon because of parasites and germs on its body.  If your fish is cooked, it doesn’t matter if it is caught from the wild or farm-raised. 


Why Is It Illegal To Take Tarpon Out Of The Water?


Tarpon is illegal to take out of the water only if you don’t have a special permit to harvest them from the government. This fish strictly falls into the ‘catch to release’ category in many states.

If you take it out of the water, it is considered harvesting, and without a permit, you can get high fines and jail time. There is also a certain tag that you will need for harvesting tarpon. 

  • But why is it illegal for a common person to take them out of water? This is because:
  • Tarpons are crucial for the ecosystem. If there is no restriction on them, then many people would harvest them, damaging the ecosystem. 
  • Tarpon is a very difficult fish to catch, and many anglers only catch it as their trophy fish because they can’t eat such smelly fish. 
  • Catch and release increase the fun of catching fish without hurting it.
  • Tarpons are very fragile. If they are handled a bit harshly or kept out of water for long, they can die.

Can You Take Tarpon Out of The Water In Texas?


The majestic tarpon is an easy-to-catch fish if you know how but it is also super fragile, which means they require a lot of care.

But they can bear being taken out of water for a quick picture and then being released back in texas, and you are allowed to take out a tarpon that is at least 85 inches large or larger than that.

image of a person hand feeding tarpon

Unfortunately, you can’t harvest small tarpons, or you cant keep more than one tarpon in this state. Texas is not one of those states that ban you from keeping it, but that doesn’t mean you can exploit this power. 

A similar read: How to get rid of fish smell in 2022?


Are Tarpon Protected In Louisiana?


Louisiana is one of those states which is the hottest spot for fishing enthusiasts. People are always looking for the biggest catch. However, some of the largest tarpon concentrations migrate to the state’s waters during summers. This makes the summer ideal for fishing and taking pictures with tarpon. 

Since tarpon is not restricted or banned in Louisiana, there is no season in which you are not allowed to fish them. You can get them with any legal method like fishing, gigging, or any other method. However, excess of anything can lead the government to ban you from fishing tarpons.


Why Are Tarpon Protected?


Tarpons are protected because they are important for our ecosystem and must stay around for a long to keep our ecology healthy.

We need a tag (just like deer hunting) if we want to kill tarpon. Otherwise, they are catch and release fish. Many anglers also know this fish’s importance and take care of not killing it. 

Tarpon is a very sensitive fish and can die very quickly if they are mistreated or kept out of water for a bit longer. It is also very difficult to hold a tarpon out of the water as they are slippery and have zero space to hold them properly.

That is why a lot of care is required for handling them. If you are seen mistreating a tarpon, then you will be finned and will also have to serve time in jail.


Final Verdict:

Well, now you know that you can eat tarpon, but the only issue with it is that it has way too many bones and tastes too fishy to enjoy.

These factors stop most seafood lovers from eating it, and since seafood is an expensive commodity around the world, nobody wants to spend money on deboning and killing the smell of the fish.  

Tarpon is a difficult fish to catch. They can bite you and can act super aggressively when they realize you are trying to catch them. The whole point of catching it is the challenge it poses for the anglers. This big challenge of catching it makes tarpon worth all the hard work and effort in the end.

This is why tarpon is considered more of a game or trophy fish than for eating. So, if you ever stumble upon tarpon and decide to eat it, you know how to do so!

Because hopefully, our detailed guide will have taught you enough about tarpons. And now, when someone asks you whether tarpon fish good to eat or not? You’ll know the answer.


Frequently Asked Questions

#1 – How do you cook tarpon fish?

There are many ways to cook tarpon. You can simply fry it, poach it or make fishcakes out of it. All you need to do is to find your favorite type of recipe to cook tarpon and then follow the recipe.

You can also follow the steps we discussed above to poach it or make fishcakes out of it. If you follow the recipe as it is, you will get rid of the fishy smell and make it taste good. 

#2 – Can humans eat tarpon?

Yes, humans can eat tarpon. It is an edible fish that is not toxic but doesn’t taste as good as other fish. Unfortunately, tarpons also have a lot of small bones and a pungent smell which makes them hard and less enjoyable to eat.

#3 – Does tarpon taste good?

Tarpons don’t taste out of this world amazing, but they also don’t taste that bad. They don’t taste like salmon or tuna, but they are edible and can taste good if you cook them correctly.

The only reason people don’t prefer eating it is because it has many small bones that are difficult to separate from the bones and smells fishy.

#4 – What is the biggest tarpon ever caught?

Angler Max Domecq got hold of the biggest tarpon, which was 286 pounds (9 ounces), on a mullet in march 2003. It was caught near west Africa and is still the biggest tarpon caught. No one has ever caught anything remotely as big as Domecq’s tarpon. 

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