Can You Eat Tarpon? Safety, Taste & More Answered

Kristian Ole



Most anglers will tell you that catching a tarpon is one of the most thrilling experiences of their lives, and that is a fact. This fish is considered one of the most prized game fish because you will need to subdue its antics when you hook it. Anglers love the exhilarating experience of going fishing for this huge fish, but when it comes to eating tarpon, you will find that most fishers will tell you that it cannot be eaten. 

So, what is true? Can you eat tarpon? The answer is yes. When this fish is properly cooked, the taste is somewhere between trout and salmon. Freshly caught tarpon has flaky white meat while the skin is oily. This makes it quite easy to remove the bones from the meat. 

Is it good to eat?

While tarpon is edible, you may find that the taste is different. Of course, you can plate the fish but will have to develop a taste for it. Many experts believe that the existing notion that tarpon cannot be eaten comes from practical issues. The fish has a lot of bones, and you would have to remove them before you can consume tarpon. The bone removal process can be arduous, and people think it is not worth the effort given the fish’s taste. 

The good news is that you can actually eat this fish raw but only eat tarpon that is caught in saltwater. That is because the salt will get rid of germs and bacteria that could be present on the skin. Make sure that you remove the skin before you eat the fish raw. 

What’s the taste like?

Many people who have eaten tarpon claim that besides being a bony fish, it is quite smelly. They claim that the effort that they put in to catch and prepare the fish does not do justice to the taste.

Once you eat tarpon, you may agree with the claims that people make. While the flavor of the fish is not that bad, the meat has a strong odor. That can put off people but you can improve the taste and flavor of the fish by adding the right ingredients and cooking it the correct way. However, if you are looking for outstanding taste and flavor, you may get disappointed with tarpon. 

What size should you keep for eating?

Tarpon is big game fish, so it is highly sought-after by anglers who want to have their picture taken with a trophy catch. Typically, a tarpon weighs between 60 and 280 pounds. So, if you are interested in eating tarpon, you should look for a fish that is on the lower end of the weight range. 

Look to keep a fish that does not weigh a lot. That way, you will be able to eat most of the meat. In case you cannot finish the fish in one meal, it is advisable to freeze it. That way, you will be able to cook it the following day or when you feel like it.

Related article: Can you eat bluegill?

What is the preferred method of cooking the fish?

The first step in cooking tarpon is properly cleaning the fish. Get rid of the skin and fat before you cook it so that it does not contaminate the fish. Make sure you use a sharp knife to fillet the meat and then use the known deboning methods to get rid of the fish bones. 

After you finish deboning, you can poach the fillet. Poaching can get rid of the smelly odor that the fish has. Fill a pot with broth and add spices. Place the tarpon fillet into the broth. Once it begins to boil, lower the heat and let it simmer. Poach the fillets for around 10 minutes before taking them out of the broth. Allow the fillet to cool, and then remove the bones. 

Another way to cook tarpon is to make fish cakes. Use a food processor to blend the meat after poaching and deboning. Do not make it into a paste. Rather, keep the meat in small chunks. Add green peppers, diced onions, mashed potatoes, eggs, garlic powder, paprika, and Dijon mustard. Roll into balls using flour and shallow fry the cakes for three to four minutes on each side until the cakes are golden brown. You can keep the fish cakes warm in the oven until you are ready to eat them. 

It is prudent to remember that poaching allows you to kill any bacteria, parasites, and microorganisms growing on the skin. Remove the skin after deboning and poaching. Make sure that when you are making fish cakes, you heat the meat until it reaches at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

As mentioned earlier, do not eat the tarpon raw. It could have bacteria and parasites. Instead, freeze the meat for a minimum of 24 hours before you eat the fish raw. 

In Conclusion

So, if you are wondering if you can eat tarpon, the answer is yet. However, given the number of bones and pungent odor that the fish has, you may be better off not consuming it. If you still feel like eating your catch, make sure to poach to get rid of the odor and contaminants. It will also make it easier for you to debone the fish.


About Kristian Ole

Kristian Ole Rørbye, a marine biologist and seasoned angler, shares his fishing adventures and expertise on FishingKris. Join him as he explores the world's waters, one cast at a time.

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