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Taking tarpon by the Skyway: Fishing to a ‘T’

One of the most glorious spectacles available for area fishermen can be captured in the picture of busting water, a shimmying tarpon crashing vertically from the water and the kingly Sunshine Skyway Bridge, itself a towering symbol of Tampa Bay.

What makes fishing in Tampa Bay so unique? It’s this: Year round, we have a varied chance at landing a silver king, a species that has been shown by fossil research to have been around since prehistoric times. And the action can be a 15-minute boat ride from Anna Maria Island.

Reaching up to eight feet and 280 pounds, tarpon are known to hang around the pilings of the Sunshine Skyway, ambushing the swarms of bait that the pilings typically attract. A tarpon fight around the pilings is like trying to keep a lassoed calf from changing directions.

If there were a Super Bowl for area anglers, this would be it. And it’s all captured on this year’s Florida Fishing College and Outdoor Expo T-shirt.

These shirts, which feature a skyrocketing tarpon before the Skyway and a deep blue sky, will be available in long- and short-sleeve versions at the 2009 Florida Fishing College, to be held Friday and Saturday at the Manatee Convention Center.

The art manages to capture the awesome size of the tarpon, as it arches its back and explodes upward, its head parallel with the yellow-glowing straps of the bridge, on what seems to be an early morning adventure.

The largest tarpon tend to mill about the bridge from about May until around October, before migrating south as water temperatures dip. Still, resident fish have been caught around the Skyway as late as Christmas.

And if you don’t yet have a tarpon tale, that’s OK.

You can still get your tarpon ‘T.’