Is it Really a Tarpon?

drawing of Ladyfish

Ladyfish (Elops saurus) or often called "skip jacks" are not nearly as prestigious as their cousin the tarpon, but make great sport. Almost immediately after being hooked they head for the sky making multiple jumps, much like their much heralded cousin. Much more abundant and resembling their bigger cousins, they are keen fighters often jumping repeatedly similar to tarpon. Growing to about five pounds, they can sometimes be confused with tarpon to the casual eye. Nevertheless, the two species are easily distinguished. The ladyfish has a slender body with small scales and the last ray of the dorsal fin is not elongated. Conversely, the tarpon is relatively deep bodied and has large scales and the last ray of the dorsal fin is greatly elongated. Its free portion is long as or longer than the height of the dorsal fin. As well as the anal fin is larger than the dorsal fin. Not to mention that the tarpon can grow to over seven feet in length.

Ladyfish or "skip jack" can be easily distinguished from the tarpon by its slender body, small scales and lack of an elongated dorsal ray (Max. length 30").

Tarpon drawing

Tarpon are relatively deep bodied, possess an elongated dorsal ray and have large scales (Max. length 8').

(Images from the US Dept of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service)

Access link for Tarpon Observation Network