Tarpon Fishing in Puerto Rico

A group of anglers visits the island, post hurricanes, to find the great tarpon fishing undiminished.

June 5, 2018
Puerto Rico tarpon guides hold a good fish for a quick photo.

Tarpon in the City!

The city of San Juan provides an impressive backdrop for John Shervington and his guide Capt. Francisco Prieto, about to release a nice Puerto Rican tarpon. Dave Lewis

On September 6, 2017 the eye of hurricane Irma passed about 60 miles to the north of Puerto Rico. The damage caused in parts of the island was extensive, especially to the national electrical grid. Then just a few weeks later on September 20th, hurricane Maria made a direct hit on Puerto Rico, devastating the island and plunging all of its 3.4 million residents into a desperate humanitarian crisis.

Fast-forward to May 2018 when I led a group of eight anglers on a trip for tarpon fishing in Puerto Rico (where I had last fished in 2016). During the short drive from the airport to the lodge, I was delighted to see such resilience on display, with so much of the island back up and running.

We concentrated on targeting tarpon throughout the urban estuaries of Torrecilla and San Juan lagoons. In addition to tarpon, our group of spin-fishermen and fly-rodders caught snook, both common and the rarely-seen tarpon snook, plus barracuda, ladyfish and jacks.


The anglers in the group fishing bait enjoyed truly amazing fishing. Each day they fished they caught numerous tarpon in the 50-to 100-plus pound range, with at least one 150-pounder hooked, jumped and lost. Tarpon fishing in Puerto Rico is truly of the world’s great fisheries, and I’m already looking forward to my next visit.

To see more trips like this and many all over the world, visit Dave Lewis Worldwide Fishing. Lewis is the author of two photo-heavy books on global fishing adventures.

Trips to the Tarpons Nest Lodge are organized by Caribbean Fishing Adventures.

Fly-rodders cast along the edges of mangroves in Puerto Rico estuaries

Tarpon Lurk Under the Mangroves

The labyrinth of mangrove channels and small sheltered backwaters that surround the Torrecilla Lagoon in San Juan teem with small tarpon, along with more than a few big girls as well. Here, Capt. Jose Milan guides Derek Elliot and Ray Jennings cast the long rods. Dave Lewis
Puerto Rico fishing guide tries to get his hand around a tarpon's tail to release it.

Trying to Get a Handle on a Big Tarpon

Gotcha! Capt. Prieto grabs the leader on a big tarpon. Dave Lewis
Puerto Rico guide lets fly with a large castnet trying for live bait for tarpon

Casting for Live Bait

Prieto throws his castnet for “perch,” as a species of mojarra is called. The common baitfish are widely used for tarpon. Anchovies, when they can be located caught, are a hot ticket for Puerto Rican tarpon. Dave Lewis
Angler fishes near the runway of international airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Runway Fishing

Incoming! Some of the very best tarpon holes are located just off the end of the runway at San Juan’s International airport, less than a two-minute run from the dock at The Tarpons Nest Lodge. Dave Lewis
Angler fishing San Jose Lagoon next to the city of San Juan in Puerto Rico

Putting the Brakes on a Tarpon

Puerto Rican tarpon, like tarpon everywhere, are strong animals that don’t come to the boat easily. In the background: the bridge crossing Laguna San José connecting the city to the airport and beaches. Dave Lewis
A large tarpon goes ballistic next to the boat as the guide attempts to release it

Boatside Tarpon Goes Ballistic

Preito receives a refreshing late afternoon shower from a jumbo tarpon. Dave Lewis
Puerto Rico fishing guide attempts to hold up a large tarpon for a pre-release photo

Tarpon Rasslin’

The captain manages to hefts the fish up for a quick photo. Dave Lewis
Guide and angler share a moment with 100-pound tarpon before releasing it.

Best Fish of the Day

Smiles from angler Shervington and Capt. Prieto for a fish that taped out at an estimated weight of just over 100 pounds. Dave Lewis
A frigate bird soars over the lagoons of Puerto Rico near San Juan.

Stunt Fighter of the Sky Wheels Over San Juan Lagoons

One needn’t be offshore to find frigate birds, and as offshore, they’ll often guide you to the fish you’re after throughout the expansive Torrecilla and San Juan lagoons. Dave Lewis
A flats skiff negotiates one of the narrow creeks that connects Puerto Rico's maze of urban lagoons.

Tight Quarters

A tough cast with a fly or spin rod, yes, but some of the very best fishing for small and mid-sized tarpon is found within the many narrow channels that feed the Torrecilla and San Juan lagoons. Dave Lewis
Fly-fisherman is tight on a good tarpon in Torrecilla Lagoon.

Silver King on Fly

Hook up! Derek Elliot hooks a small tarpon on fly in the San Juan lagoon. Dave Lewis
Anglers Catch Two Species of Snook Freequent Puerto Rico Lagoons As Well As Tarpon.

Snook Abound as Well

Two species of snook — common and tarpon snook — are abundant throughout the area. Dave Lewis
The Tarpon's Next Lodge in Puerto Rico

Tarpon’s Nest Lodge

The Tarpon’s Nest Lodge. Guests enjoy their own air conditioned room, the lodge has its own dock, and the food cooked in the newly remodeled kitchens is nothing less than sensational. Fishing days are typically split into two four hour sessions running roughly 0600-1000, return to lodge for lunch, swim and siesta, then fishing from 1500-1900. Dave Lewis
Journalist Dave Lewis about to release a fun-size tarpon in Puerto Rico

The Photographer in Action

The photographer, Dave Lewis, took time to catch and release fish every day of the six-day trip. “Tarpon this size were great sport on an 8-weight fly rod,” he says. Dave Lewis

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