Yes. I am not a booking or referral service. I am a fishing guide. I will be the one taking you fishing.
Are you the guy in the gray boat?
Where are you located?
I live in the Boca Grande/Englewood area about one hour south of St. Petersburg/Tampa. Two hours southwest of Orlando and one hour north of Ft. Myers. We usually depart out of Eldred’s Marina at the base of the Boca Grande Causeway.
Where do you go out of?
I live in Englewood, near Boca Grande. I keep both of my boats on the trailer. This way I can launch at any of our local ramps. I like to launch at the ramp closest to our fishing location. Cuts down on running time and increases our fishing time.
I see you fish for tarpon in the Boca Grande/Charlotte Harbor area as well as the Everglades. Which location is better?
Tarpon are a migratory species. The peak times for each location are different. I fish the peak season in both locations. March, October and November is peak tarpon season in the Everglades. May-August is peak tarpon season in the Boca Grande area. Having said that, the fishing is very different in both locations. So different in fact I use different boats and even different tackle.
In the Boca Grande area I use my bigger boat. It can handle up to 4 people. We are usually fishing large (40-100 fish avg.) pods along the beaches and back in the bays. Generally we ramp close to where we are fishing. Runs are shorter. Definitely more accessible.
Fishing in the Everglades area I use my skiff/flats boat. I can take 1 or 2 passengers maximum. Here we launch right square in the middle of nowhere. We fish in the back bays, jungle rivers and shallow flats. A true fishing adventure. You might as well leave your phone behind, it won’t work here anyway.
I love both places.
So it really is up to you. Depending on the type of trip you want and the time of year you want to go.
For more information on our Everglades adventures: www.GladesTarpon.com
What are your prices? Why not put them on your website?
My prices vary depending on the time of year, species we are targeting and number of anglers.
They are not on my site because I would like the chance to talk to all of my prospective clients on the phone or email before they book their charter. Although my prices are right in line with other full time professionals in my area, I do not want to be dismissed solely because my prices are higher than the average part timer you find on the internet.
There are a lot of clowns in this business.
If we book you for a day’s fishing are we guaranteed to catch fish?
Backcountry fishing trips fishing for snook, trout and redfish are 100% guaranteed fishing. No Fish No Pay!!! If you book a full day trip with me and do not catch a game fish, (snook, redfish, trout etc.) you do not pay a dime.
Tarpon fishing, like any other big game fishing, can be unpredictable. Weather, moon phase, tides all factor into the equation. Once hooked there are lot of factors that come in to play whether the fish is landed or not. Tarpon are notorious for throwing the hooks. Over the last 25 years I have made a full time living as a guide. I have found over 100 different ways to lose a tarpon. I am sure there are a few even I haven’t seen yet. I can not guarantee you will catch/land a tarpon when you fish with me.
Do you have restroom facilities on your boat?
No, but I do have a real nice bucket…
We have more than 4 people. Can you arrange more boats?
Yes…and…No. Although I have a couple guides I can work with, I prefer to run solo. Call me and lets discuss options.
Absolutely not! I make a living year round fishing for all of the species of game fish this area has to offer. Snook, redfish and trout just to name a few. A day fishing and exploring the backcountry of Charlotte Harbor is not easily forgotten.
However, during prime tarpon season (March-November) I do not fish for anything but tarpon. Unless windy/rough conditions keep us from tarpon fishing (and that rarely ever happens).
I am undecided on a 1/2 day or a full day trip?
Tarpon fishing I only fish full day trips.
Well to answer your question, it all depends on how long you want to fish or how many fish do you want to catch. A 1/2 day trip is only 4 hours dock to dock. Figure anywhere from 15-30 minutes to get to the first spot and the same to get home. Then you are looking at about 3 to 3 1/2 hours left to fish. If we have to catch bait add another hour. So in the better/warmer months when we are catching and using live bait we might only get 2 to 2 1/2 hours to actually fish. The first spot can’t be too far from where we catch bait. Hopefully the tide will be moving and the fish in our first spot are ready to bite.
I don’t know about you when I go fishing by myself I want more time than that.
Can we book a 1/2 day then if it is good just stay out?
Yes and no. If I have a 1/2 day trip booked, I always try to book the afternoon with another 1/2 day. If the afternoon is open we can do that, but depending on when you might decide to stay, it can hinder our morning. If I am planning on fishing a full day, I catch more bait and plan my day accordingly. I might run a little further or end up a little farther away from the dock by mid-day. If we only have a 1/2 day to fish I have to stay closer to home. Otherwise we are spending too much of the 4 hours running. I also might not be able to run and hit “one more spot” on the way back home.
Full days are the way to go Period. (nuff said!)
“A 1/2 day doesn’t mean we will catch a full day’s worth of fish in half the time. It means we get 1/2 the time to fish.”, Capt. Mark Bennett
We want to fish for tarpon, but we are undecided on a 1/2 day or full day trip?
Wait a minute…are you reading this or just looking at the pictures?
Tarpon fishing I only fish full day trips.
Can we book a full day, catch a couple tarpon then go target another species?
If it were only that easy. The differences are just too many to be able to target tarpon and snook (or other species) in one day. Different bait, locations, different tackle and mindset. I feel to do either one correctly you need to spend the day doing it. There is not enough hours in a day to do both effectively.
What if the tarpon fishing is slow? Do you change it up and target other species?
No, not during peak season. The only way to catch a tarpon is to fish for them.
We (or people in our group) don’t have a lot of experience fishing. Can we still catch a tarpon?
To me, it doesn’t matter if you have never fished before or have for over 50 years. Tarpon fishing is different in almost every aspect from any other kind of fishing I have ever experienced. Over the last 25 years I have developed a proven method of teaching the techniques and skills necessary to land one of these giant fish. I feel like I can teach anyone to be a skilled tarpon fisherman (or fisherwoman!).
We don’t fly fish, can we still fish with you? (I am not sure why I get asked this question so often.)
Absolutely, as a matter of fact, I would rather you not be a fly fisherman targeting tarpon.
When is the best time/What is the best day (week, month) to catch a tarpon?
This is the number one question I am asked… The best time to catch a tarpon is when the water is calm, the fish are right in front of you and are really hungry…
In all seriousness, the peak season in the Boca Grande/Charlotte Harbor area is May-August. That is when the most tarpon are in our area. The absolute best month changes every season. Some years it is July, some June, some May. A couple years ago in August we caught more tarpon than the entire rest of the season put together.
I spend four months a year fishing for tarpon exclusively in the Florida Everglades. March, October and November are the peak months of the migration through that area.
For more information on my Everglades fishing. www.GladesTarpon.com
March-November is the best time to fish for tarpon in the areas I fish.
I heard that May and June are the best months to catch a tarpon. Is that true?
Absolutely not. May and June are great months to fish, but we have lots of tarpon here from March all the way thru November.
We know it is not the right season, but we are coming anyway. Won’t there still be a few tarpon around?
The large tarpon are migratory. Meaning they migrate here to spawn and then they leave.
My childhood was (and still is…) all about fishing.
Absolutely. Kids are the future of our sport. I don’t have a set age limit for any of my charters.
Tarpon fishing the days are long and the fish are huge. Often times adults have a hard time hooking and landing one of these giants on their own, much less a small child.
No one knows your children better than you. You need to use your own judgment.
Backcountry/inshore trips are perfect for kids. I like to tailor the trips to keep them interested as well as get them excited about the sport we love. I enjoy teaching kids how to fish and about the fish. The best part for you: Finally you can relax, sit back and actually fish for a change!
Do you do sunset cruises, bird watching or shelling trips?
That would be a no…uh…no
What do we need for the trip?
Whatever you might eat and drink. We supply top notch tackle, fishing license, bait and a cooler full of ice. Polarized sunglasses and sunscreen are recommended but not necessary.
What shouldn’t we bring?
No black soled shoes, alcohol/beer, aerosol/spray on sunscreen or bananas.
This also means banana muffins, trail mix, etc. This is no joke. I am not kidding!
Is alcohol allowed on board? No.
I am in this business to take people fishing, not to babysit a boatload of drunks.
If you are looking for a “Booze Cruise”, please look elsewhere.
Why do mullet jump?
Mullet jump because they are happy.
What type of tackle do you use, do I need to bring my own?
All of my tackle is state of the art.
Spinning tackle, I highly recommend you use mine.
For spinning tackle I use St. Croix Rods and Penn Reels exclusively.
My fly rods are G. Loomis paired with Nautilus and Abel reels.
Whatever the species we are after we will be rigged to the hilt for them. If you want to bring your favorite rod talk to me and I will tell you what you need as far as line size etc.
How do we book a trip?
Give me a call or email. We can discuss and recommend best dates/seasons or check availability for your dates. We can also recommend lodging in Englewood or waterfront on Boca Grande Island.
How do we reserve a date or dates?
I take a deposit to reserve a date. On multiple day trips, the balance of the charter fee is due on the morning of the first day.
All deposits are 100% refundable for cancellations due to bad weather or rough seas at my discretion. For customer cancellations, if I can re-book the dates with someone else I will refund your deposit in full.
Really, I hate to take deposits and have cancellation policies, but unfortunately a few bad apples over the years have forced me to.
Do you take credit cards?
Yes, I do. However there is a small fee to use this service. I charge exactly what they charge me.
Who builds your website?
Actually I do.
I was ripped off $350 by a website company over 20 years ago. I knew then I needed to have a presence on the internet. I decided to teach myself. I have no formal schooling in web design or writing.
After looking over the myriad of guides/outfitters websites out there, I knew my website had to be different. I didn’t need the fancy junk or hyped up sales pitches. I just needed to be honest with the content and have lots of photos of what we do.
Definitely a what you see is what you get/no bullshit philosophy.
Why have three websites?
tarponsnook.com has been on the internet for over 20 years. Old software, old technology, but it still gets my point across.
Floridatarponsportfishing.com I think is a great name and it gives me this learning platform without messing up what I have established on the internet already. Gladestarpon.com is all about our adventures down in the Florida Everglades.
I am no web guru. Just like how I learned how to fish, I am 100% self taught.
The photography on your site is great. How do you get so many great shots?
That is easy, for me anyway. My wife/first mate Jenni is a professional photographer. The best tarpon photos you have seen for over the last 20+ years in Sport Fishing Magazine, Saltwater Sportsman, Texas Fish and Game and Florida Sportsman are hers. (yes I am biased) Being on the water during tarpon season with me full time since 1996 and several hundred hookups a season means lots of opportunities. Jenni averages well over 4000 photos per season. The hardest part of building this website is choosing from the hundreds of unbelievable shots Jenni gets every season. This translates into magazine quality memories for all of my clients.
Do we need to tip the 1st Mate?
Proper etiquette on charter boats is at least 10-20%. Jenni has over 21 years experience fishing professionally. She does it all. There is not a first mate in this area that even comes close to her skill level. Not to mention her photography skills.
Can we get copies of the photos Jenni takes on our trip?
See the previous question…
Why don’t you fish for tarpon in Boca Grande pass?
Crowds, crowds and crowds. During the daytime hours the pass has 150+ boats crowded together all racing around trying to fish one spot. Fighting between boats is common. Plus the tarpon fishing in Boca Grande Pass is highly overrated at best. The picture below is Boca Grande Pass in June. It looks like these guys are waiting for a shotgun start for a tournament, but believe it or not these guys are actually “fishing” (term used loosely).
I prefer to fish for tarpon in a more natural state, as far away from boat traffic as possible.
I will, just as I have for well over 25 years, catch plenty of tarpon away from the crowds.
Do you fish any of the tarpon tournaments?
No, I do not fish the tarpon tournaments, because the tarpon tournaments are all held in Boca Grande Pass.
Why do other guides say that Boca Grande Pass is the best bet to catch a tarpon?
Because that is where they like to fish.
Don’t take the “Boca Grande bait and switch”!
Most all tarpon guides advertise “sight fishing”, “fishing the flats and beaches” etc. When in reality they only fish in and around Boca Grande Pass. Right in the middle of the mess. If they even mention fishing the pass, that is where you will end up.
Trust me some things never change.
We talked to another Captain, he said that the beaches and flats are just as crowded as Boca Grande Pass. Is this true?
How brain dead is that statement? Or that Captain for that matter? This shows you first hand the dangers of breathing excessive outboard exhaust fumes, caused by fishing in over crowded Boca Grande Pass.
One look at any of my photos will answer that question over and over again.
I was told that the largest tarpon only live in Boca Grande pass, and the fish on the flats and beaches are much smaller and less abundant.
Another false statement, in fact they are the same fish. Weeks before the tarpon start to gather in Boca Grande pass I am catching them all along the way. Giant pods of tarpon rolling and feeding on the surface is a sight to see. Once fish start to show up in Boca Grande pass that is the time to fish along the beaches. Casting to pods of tarpon finning, rolling on the surface and daisy chaining in the clear water is awesome for sure. Something you won’t forget. The fish along the beaches are all coming and going from the big pass and other places. They have to get to the pass somehow, don’t they? When they start to leave the big pass is even better. Overall boat traffic subsides, the fish are “happier” and so am I.
I noticed there are a couple guides that make many of the same claims you do on their website. Parts of their website are almost word for word the same as yours. What’s up with that?
Yes there is. There are several that have copied my website, it’s content and even stolen our copyrighted photos to use on their website. There is one guide that has tried (key word…tried) to emulate my every move for over 20 years. Website, advertising, boat ramps, fishing spots, boats, hobbies… everything.
If I took up ballet he would go buy a tutu, guaranteed…Go Figure.
Other guides tell me that they fish where the “bite” is best whether it is in the pass, on the beach or the flats. What if the fish are only in the pass?
There are two kinds of tarpon guides in our area, ones who fish the pass and ones who don’t. There are only a few guides that fish the flats and beaches everyday. I don’t know any guides that fish the pass who also fish the flats and beaches on a regular basis, no matter what you hear.
With miles of coastline, beautiful beaches, mangrove lined islands, grass flats, shoals and rivers, why would all of the fish be in a 2 acre hole. While sitting in the pass everyday, unless these guys are psychic, how would they know anyway? Tarpon roam throughout our area, to think that all of the fish will be in one spot is crazy.
What if we want to fish in Boca Grande Pass or get involved in the many tournaments held there? Are you telling us it is a bad place to fish for tarpon?
No, not at all. The point I am trying to make, fishing in the pass is not my cup of tea. I mean no disrespect to the many guides who make a living fishing ethically in there. If you want to fish the pass or get involved in the many tournaments held there call or email me anytime and I will try to point you in the right direction. There are lots of guides that fish the pass everyday and I know some of the ones that have proven the test of time. I will be more than happy to refer you to one of them.
Also, if you are thinking of trying tarpon fishing on your own in your boat. Boca Grande Pass is the place to start. It is easy to find and doesn’t require a lot of the specialized tackle and equipment (specialty boats, trolling motors etc.) to get started.
There are so many fishing guides advertising “Florida Tarpon Fishing” and “Tarpon fishing in Boca Grande”, how do we choose?
Notice most of them don’t even live in this area code. Go figure…
Just on the internet alone there are hundreds to choose from, but when you cut through the BS there are only a few. Here are a few things to help narrow your search.
Question #1 when hiring a guide for anything, especially tarpon.
Ask them: How long has it been since you have caught a tarpon (insert targeted species) yourself? Do you ever go fishing just for fun?
The answer to this question is VERY important. They can say they have a fully booked season so they don’t have time etc. etc. blah, blah, blah… That is BS.
Out of a whole season (6+ months) you will always have a cancellation at some point or time early or late in the season to get after them yourself. I will always make time if I have to. I try to, at the very least, catch a dozen or more myself. I think it is imperative to remember what the client is going through on the other end of the boat fighting the fish of their lifetime.
In my opinion, if you don’t absolutely love it to your heart and soul how can you be good at it. If you have a passion for anything you make time. Just writing this gets me excited.
Do you really want to go fishing with a guide that just drives you around and goes through the motions??? Or even worse one that spends all day on the phone booking trips and talking about other things not related to your trip? Somebody that would rather be doing something else???
Why would you hire a guide who doesn’t love to fish?
I have been in this business full time for over 22 years. My seasons are fully booked. If you think I treat this just like a regular job you are sadly mistaken. Being a tarpon fishing guide requires very long hours. I get very little sleep, but it is so worth the reward.
During tarpon season I get up at 3:15am and go to bed at 7:30pm. I am tying knots and getting ready for the next day while most guides are still sleeping or holding up a bar stool somewhere.
It is in my soul. No I don’t have much left in the tank after 8pm, but at 4am I am on fire!
You know the saying, family first. That doesn’t apply in my house during tarpon season…lol
YES, it is that important!
This business is not regulated by anyone. Anybody can get a captains license and a website. Then they can make any claim they want. Many outright lie to people just to attract clients.
If the guide seems arrogant on the phone or email, imagine how it will be to spend the day with them. How will they treat your wife or kids?
Never hire a guide that works for a resort, another guide or booking service. That is the #1 best way to end up with a second rate captain. If any of these guys could make it on their own they would. Otherwise why would you give a large percentage of your daily fee to someone else? With the stream of new clients coming from the resort or another guide they don’t need to rely on repeat business to make a living. No need to work too hard or get out of bed too early.
Believe it or not, there are a some guides that get a signed contract when you book a trip with them. You think they have had a few problems in the past? Maybe?
If you notice everyone advertises tarpon fishing, but very few have up to date photos of tarpon or anything else. Think about it, if you made a living catching fish wouldn’t you snap a few photos once in a while? Notice how many have the same jumping tarpon photo on their site. Most just steal them off the internet and decorate their site with them. That is why so many have the exact same photos. They steal them off my website all of the time. Every winter I track down 4 or 5 and get them to quit using our photos. I am actually thinking of starting a new page called the “Wall of Shame”. Featuring everything and everyone that steals content and photos off this website.
A lot of guides book tarpon trips only to switch last minute to another species because the bite is supposedly “off”. This is VERY common.
There are very few guides that actually catch tarpon on a regular/daily basis.
Many of them claim to hook 10 or 20 tarpon a day, but in reality don’t catch that many all season.
Beware of prices below the going rate.
If you pay a cut rate price for a guide that is exactly what you will get. Expect cut-rate service as well.
There are several guides in this area claiming lots of experience, the best in the area etc., that were themselves clients of mine or other established guides in the area just a few years ago.
Over the years there have also been several guides in the area that are all over the internet, they come off as legit only to run off with people’s money and even worse ruin their vacation. Either by not showing up at all or sending some new guide in their place when it is time to fish.
Be extra careful of ANY website advertising more than one guide. This is a sure way to end up hiring a part timer. It is very common for a group of part time guides to get together and split advertising costs. It can also be a sign of a booking service. There are many booking services on the internet posing as fishing guides. Some are fishing TV show hosts that claim to be the best in the area or to have the best guides in the area. Actually, they just make a finders fee and then look to pawn off the clients to the lowest bidder.
Almost every fishing guide on the internet claims to be a full time guide, 20+ years of fishing/guiding experience and/or claiming to be the best in the area.
How many of those years were spent as a professional captain, actually guiding clients for money? Most didn’t even live in the state of Florida that long. I know one that claims well over 25 years full time guiding experience that hasn’t even owned a boat that long. I can count on one hand the guys that have guided 20+ years around here.
A lot has changed since I got into this business back in 1992. When I started guiding we didn’t have the internet, email, cell phones or GPS… The finest custom built flats skiff on the market cost a whopping $20,000 or less brand new. Gas was less than $1 a gallon. Cameras actually had real film in them. You had a real good day and it was off to the one hour photo on the way home. Fishing guides used to know how to fish before they started taking paying clients. They didn’t try to “learn on the fly” like so many do today. We had to pay our dues to attract clients, not hire a advertising/web guru. The boat ramp in Placida only had room for about 15 trailers back then. On a Saturday in June you could still get a spot at 8am most of the time… Yeah, it was a long time ago.
There are a lot of part-timers in this business. These guys are just looking for someone to make their boat payment this month.
Most all of them claim to be a full time guide, very few actually make a living at it.
Off the top of my head I would say there are less than 10 full time guides in the Boca Grande/Charlotte Harbor area.
I get a kick out of reading some of the crap on their websites. Like: Capt. Zero graduated from so and so university then heard his calling so he went on to travel the world in search of giant fish…right after winning Olympic Gold in the summer games…then decided to be a fishing guide because he was drawn to the water by God… In reality it should say: Capt. Zero went to school, got a great job, retired to SW Florida and decided it would be best to have you make his boat payments…plus then he can write off all of his fishing vacations…lol… Or Capt. Zero was born rich, went to so and so university, spent all of his summers traveling to exotic destinations to fish and thought being a guide would be fun after his trust fund kicked in.
What does any of that crap have to do with catching you a fish anyway? Last time I checked tarpon and trophy snook don’t give a crap…lol
Me?..I graduated from the School of Hard Knocks at a very young age, have lived along the West coast of Florida my whole life and haven’t done much of anything except fish. Shit, other than guiding, I never had a real job. (OK, you got me…I do hunt and shoot guns a lot too…)
Beware of guides that claim to do everything.
Fishing the entire coast, Tampa to Key West etc. Inshore, offshore and everything in between. It is impossible to stay on top of the best fishing everywhere. They pump you up with stories of fabulous fishing, then are full of excuses when the fishing on your day is sub-par.
A lot claim to be I.G.F.A.* certified or holder or breaker of multiple world records.
*I.G.F.A: International Game Fish Association
Ask them these questions:
What does it take to be I.G.F.A. certified?
(answer: $150 a year).
What records? Which species?
According to the I.G.F.A, none of the guides that fish this area holds or guided someone to a I.G.F.A World Record tarpon, snook or redfish.
The only World Records taken in this area were a couple hammerhead sharks around 10 years ago and two women’s record snook back in the 80’s.
There are no guides that fish my area that actually have “I.G.F.A. World Records” for any desirable species. A lot of them go for open categories (records that no one has wanted to claim or brand new line classes) and Junior records (made for kids) of undesirable species (such as Spanish Mackerel or ladyfish) just to say they have a “World Record”.
Notice a lot of them claim to hold world records, but none have listed which species or even have that species listed as a targeted species on their website.
A lot of them claim tarpon tournament wins and high placement in tournament events as a reason to hire them.
Unfortunately for them, tournament wins only show who was the best for one day in the limited area and time frame that the tournament was held.
There are two or more tarpon tournaments in Boca Grande Pass every weekend in May and June and an inshore snook/redfish tournament every weekend all year round.
Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while…
“Remember we are in September.”
“The month when the great fish come,” the old man said. “Anyone can be a fisherman in May.”
The Old Man and the Sea
Photos don’t lie. You can tell when they are old, new, good or bad. How big and how many.
They might say they don’t take many photos these days or don’t have the time, right…
How many people do you know that catch 100#+ fish daily and don’t take photos?
The horror stories (see below) I have heard from past and present clients actually is what prompted me to write the above section.
Last season, 2009, a gentleman and his two sons came over from Texas. He told me that this trip was a once in a lifetime trip for them. He booked two days in May, the first one with a new inexperienced guide (with a nice website) in the area and the second with me. He called me the night before our scheduled trip and asked what were we going to fish for the next day. I was caught off guard at the question. I said we would be going after tarpon of course. He sounded worried. He said the previous day his guide brought them in early because there were no tarpon around to fish for and kindly offered to take them out in the afternoon bottom fishing for grouper. Overflowing with confidence I had from the outstanding fishing that day, I told him to make sure he and his boys ate their Wheaties and were at the ramp at 5:30 am sharp. The following are pictures from their trip the following morning.
Unfortunately I could fill several pages with stories just like this one.
2013 Update: The guide who this was about is not even in the business anymore.
It is easy to talk the talk, but to walk the walk…tough for most.
When planning a fishing trip, selecting the right fishing guide is the number one most important decision there is to make.
To put it simply, some catch fish and many don’t…
Many come into this business with a big mouth, fancy boat and website.
(Heck, I got fishing poles older than a lot of them.)
You will see them all over the TV, magazines and newspapers.
After a couple years they go away just as suddenly as they showed up.
I have been saltwater fishing my whole life.
I am a full time guide. Fishing is how I have made a living for over 25 years, my entire adult life.
I am not a booking service. When you hire me, I will be the guide taking you fishing.
I can promise you this, there is not a person on this planet that loves tarpon fishing as much as I do.
For me it is all about the tarpon…It always has been…
One day out will let you know,
I live for this!!
(I really do!!!)
Still not convinced?
Please feel free to call or email and ask as many questions as you like.
When I am not on the water I am always available to discuss your trip.
For more info and reservations:
Capt. Mark Bennett
If you are a fishing guide and you have a problem with something I said on this page, email the webmaster here.