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Can You Eat Tarpon?

Tarpon are enormous and present a thrilling challenge to anglers, making them one of the most highly appreciated game fishes.

tarpon swimming

If you go fishing with the intent of bringing home something for dinner, you might end up with a tarpon or two and not know if you need to keep fishing.

Since you can cook most fish that you catch in the wild, you might have the burning question: Can you eat tarpon?

Before you plan on putting tarpon on the menu, there are a few things you should consider before making your final decision.

Do People Eat Tarpon?

You can eat tarpon, but many people choose not to because of their fishy taste, pungent smell, and bony structure.

tarpon school

Since catching one is usually challenging, most people do not bother to eat them simply because the taste is not worth the time it takes to catch and prepare one.

However, some anglers are adamant about eating the first fish they catch. If your first fish happens to be a tarpon, you will be happy to know that you can eat it.

a school of tarpon swimming

However, you might end up going through a lengthy preparation process that yields a disappointing taste.

What Does Tarpon Taste Like?

Most fish connoisseurs compare the taste of tarpon to other bonefishes. Recipes such as tarpon fish cakes use seasonings to enhance the flavor of tarpon meat.

a tarpon swimming through a school of bait

Those who already know what tarpon taste like agree that the flavor is not necessarily sour, but the trouble of having to pick through bones and stomach the smell is not usually worth the effort.

Is Tarpon Edible?

Tarpon are edible, but not a kind of fish that you will typically find in the store or served in a restaurant.

closeup of a tarpon

This fish is very bony, and most people prefer boneless alternatives. If you choose to cook a tarpon, it is best to poach it thoroughly before smothering it in spices to bring out the flavor. 

Can You Eat Tarpon Raw?

Tarpos dwell in freshwater and saltwater regions. While it is generally safe to eat raw fish from both types of water, not many people do. It is not something that you will find on the menu at the sushi bar.    

a tarpon underwater

If you want to eat raw tarpon, it is best to catch them from clean saltwater. The saltwater naturally kills the parasites and bacteria on its skin, making it safer to eat.

Freezing tarpon before you eat them will destroy any remaining parasites. The safest way to eat a raw tarpon is to freeze it for at least a day beforehand.

catching tarpon

Is It Safe to Eat Tarpon?

The safest way to eat tarpon is to make sure you cook them to at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooking them all the way through will destroy any parasites that spread foodborne illnesses.

a tarpon underwater

During the poaching and deboning process, you will have to pull the meat off of the bones by hand.

Since a single tarpon can have tons of bones in its body, you will want to make sure you do this step mindfully, so you do not end up swallowing any while you’re eating.  

Final Thoughts

You can eat tarpon, but to many seafood lovers, the taste is not worth the headache of catching and deboning. Most people see tarpon as a gamefish more than as food.

If you end up with some tarpon, it’s up to you to decide if you want to take it home and eat or catch and release.

If you’re hungry for fish and determined to eat what you catch, you might be better off looking for one of the many better-tasting fish out there.   

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