Feed the Tarpon

“Amazing,” “breathtaking” and “impressive” are words we often hear from first-time visitors. What they’re referring to is the school of more than 100 tarpon that come here daily and linger for hours. Occasionally, a tarpon actually rises up from the water in a powerful flash of silver and green to meet the fish as it leaves your hand. It’s a sight to behold! Maybe the “Silver Kings” just come here to see the humans, but toss a baitfish among them and the water churns as these monsters and the resident pelicans vie for the snack, causing quite a spectacle. Admission to the dock is $1 per person, and each bucket of fish is $3 (tax not included).

Robbie and his wife Mona started feeding Scarface in 1976. Scarface appeared floundering in the shallow waters near the dock; Robbie saw the struggling tarpon and, thinking it had swum too shallow and gotten stuck on the bank, went out into the water to free it. He lifted the fish and saw that the right side of its jaw was torn open. Hoping to revive the tarpon, Robbie placed it in the oxygen-rich shrimp tank and called old Doc Roach. The doctor showed up with his wife’s mattress needles and some twine, and Scarface became the first known tarpon with stitches. After several days of force-feeding, Scarface showed good recovery and weight gain; six months later he was released into the waters off the dock. Afterwards, Scarface continued to frequent the docks; sometimes bringing a friend. Soon more and more of the fish began to appear. Today, the tradition continues, with visitors from all across the world coming to marvel at the spectacle and offer these magnificent creatures a snack.