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Satellite Tracking of Tarpon

To better understand Atlantic tarpon migratory patterns, spawning areas and population connectivity in the southeastern US and Gulf of Mexico, in collaboration with Bonefish-Tarpon Trust (BTT), Jerry Ault, Ph.D. and the University of Miami have been using “pop-up” archival transmitting (PAT) tags since 2001. These space-age tags deployed on tarpon can collect and archive second-by-second data on depth of the animal, water temperatures, light levels (specific for determining location of the tagged fish), and salinity (Luo et al. 2008a,b). The tags are preprogrammed to release from the tagged fish at a specified time and date, and then pop-up to the ocean surface where they will transmit their stored summary data to an ARGOS satellite network passing overhead. Data retrieved by the satellites is then forwarded to us here on earth for analysis. The goal of the satellite PATtagging research is to define the unit stock for the Atlantic tarpon appropriate for regional fishery management, to define stock mixing, spawning and feeding migrations, and coastal ocean habitat use by tarpon.

Special Thanks to the Tarpon & Bonefish Research Center (click here)

Video of Largest Tarpon Ever Satellite Tagged on the Texas Gulf Coast - 200 lbs


Age/Length/Weight Graph

Remember, 1 inch = 2.54 cm and 1 pound = .45 kg. So, for example a three foot (36") long fish to the fork is 91 cm and a 110 lb fish is 50 kg.

Daily Activity Graph

The following graph shows the average number of rolls for any given period of time. This data is distilled from over a hundred different tags.

Research Data Update

The following are some additional tracks and information for viewing. The years of the tags are noted.

2006 Galveston PAT Tag


The following are GoogleEarth files. You will need GoogleEarth on your computer to open and view.

Mexico to Texas Early Summer Tracks

2005 - PAT Tag #33 - Click Here to Open

2006 - PAT Tag#43 - Click Here to Open

2006 - PAT Tag#42 - Click Here to Open

2007 - PAT Tag#67a - Click Here to Open

2008 - PAT Tag #99a - Click Here to Open


Texas Tagging Tracks

2007 - Tag #86 - Click Here to Open

2007 - PAT Tag #82a - Click Here to Open

2009 - Tag #130 - Click Here to Open


Summer 2013 Texas Tagging Update

This particular tarpon (T-264) is a 171 pound fish (193 cm fork length, 101 cm girth) that was satellite-tagged with a SPOT5 tag near the panhandle of Florida, on May 23, 2013.

The fish began moving in what appeared to be "opposite" of the expected direction.  By May 30th, about where the graphic above picks up it's movements, the tarpon had reached the Crystal River area. It then spent about 2 weeks moving back and forth between there and the Homosassa Springs area.

The full moon was on June 23rd, noted previously by researchers to be correlated with tarpon spawning.  However, we did not receive any tag locations from June 20th to June 26th.  So, unfortunately, we have no information available to us concerning the location of this fish during this period.

On June 26th the tag communicated with the satellite network and the tarpon had moved further south reaching Boca Grande at the mouth of Charlotte Harbor.  Subsequently, the tarpon then began moving due west towards the edge of the west Florida shelf. 

We believe it is possible that this tarpon has gone seaward to spawn, possibly related to the moon period?  The next new moon is on July 8th.  We have data that indicate that tarpon spawn 2 days before the new moon.   If tarpon T-264 stays out on the outer shelf until July 6th, it will provide good evidence of spawning.

The moral of this story.  It just goes to show, just when you thought you had it figured out, that there is ALWAYS a new wrinkle in the fascinating story of tarpon migrations, spawning and ocean habitat use.

Summer 2012 Texas Tagging Update

We were able to tag multiple fish in the Port O'Connor area this summer. We obtained some interesting tag results. We were able to tag some fish with SPOT Tags (which permit instentaneous location data when the fish rolls) and modified PAT Tags (which permit limited instentaneous location data as well). Below are some of the graphics on fish movements after tagging.

First is a graph of data from one of the tags (Tag #235)[You can right click and save this information, allowing you to view it in a larger, more detailed format).

Location Data now for the same tag (Tag #235)

Forum Members Only 2012 Texas Tag Information (click here)

2012 Tagging Video

Florida 2012 Tag Update

Project Tarpon continues to support Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (BTT) in their efforts to tag tarpon in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic. Below are a couple tracks of fish recently in Florida. They have taken off toward Louisiana.


Fall 2010 Boca Grande Tag Results

The following are graphic displays of the tagging results for tarpon tagged in the Boca Grande, Florida area this past fall.



Comprehensive PAT Tagging Results 2007-2008

PAT Sattelite Tagging Results

Since 2001, PAT tags have been placed in tarpon from Nicaragua to the East Coast of the United States. Some amazing information has been learned. For example, tarpon have been found to travel hundreds of miles in a matter of a few days. Additionally, we have learned that tarpon often dive extemely deep, in excess of four hundred (400) feet - thought to be associated with pre-spawn activity.

Tarpon Migratory Mapping

2003 Summary:


2007 Summary:


Detail Data Summaries

Example of a tarpon tagged in Mexico and the daily recording of depth and temperature:


Graph of Data Obtained from Fish Tagged in Florida Keys (Notice Depth of almost 500 feet)

Snapshot from one day for a tarpon in Louisiana - note water depth and time of day:

Tarpon Videos - Detailing Migration by Day

Texas Tarpon in 2007



Florida Keys Tag


Veracruz, Mexico Tag


Alabama Tarpon Tag




Graphic Representation of Tarpon Tagged in Matagorda Bay in September 2006.  Tarpon Returned to Within Two Miles of Tag Location when Tagged Popped off in late November 2006


Click to Download

2009 PAT Tag Annual Report

February 2012 PAT Tag Annual Report





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