Aside from a Reef Shark and maybe a Goliath Grouper, Tarpon are probably the biggest fish you are likely to see on a Caribbean Reef while diving. Saying that, I am reminded of visiting Fort Lauderdale a number of years ago and seeing what I thought were shark fins breaking the inland water ways, and I later found out they were Tarpons….and they were huge!! Back to the Caribbean where the featured image was taken, Tarpon (Megalops atlanticus) usually hang around in small groups, loitering almost motionless a few feet over the reefs surface. They don’t seem phased by divers (unless you get too close and they will move slowly off), and don’t really seem to be doing much of anything. So much so it is quite hard to imagine them trying to catch food, although maybe this is a throw-back from their early juvenile stage when they absorbed nutrients directly from the water! In actual fact this behaviour turns out to be because, like many fish, Tarpon are active nocturnally, swallowing fish whole at night while they hunt. Vicious!!
Tarpon are hunted as sports fish, and artisanally for food. In Anguilla, where the original photograph behind this design print was taken, Tarpon are known as Bass and fished by hook-and-line. When caught they are cut up into chunky steaks and often cooked on BBQs. Interestingly, Tarpon scales are very large and of such size and thickness that in the past they have been used as guitar plectrums, being found scattered around areas in large numbers where they were landed by fishers. Very resourceful!
A great article on Tarpons can be found on the Florida Museums website here.
About Reef Creature Clothing
We specialise in not only coral reef inspired athleisure wear, but also beach & swim wear, and other printed products. All our colourful and vibrant designs are made using digitally enhanced prints of real underwater photographs taken in the Caribbean. We donate all of our profits after costs to The Coral Reef Research Hub, a small non-profit organisation that seeks to help fund research projects undertaken by early career coral reef scientists. The projects funded are those that aim to contribute information that will hopefully lead to legislative change, and thus help to protect coral reefs and their associated resources for generations to come!
We write these regular ‘creature features’ to help you learn more about the fascinating inhabitants of the coral reefs where our images came from. More will continue to be posted over the coming months so watch this space!