Rolling versus feeding behavior

The waters around Georgetown teem with bait, which draw the attention of migrating tarpon.

Tarpon rise to the surface for several reasons, alerting onlookers at great distances. Most of the time, tarpon breach the surface gulping air — otherwise known as “rolling.”

Often, this behavior is mistaken for feeding. but tarpon are not feeding at all when they are rolling at the surface.

Tarpon will roll or gulp air as a way to overcome low-dissolved oxygen levels in the water in areas with large freshwater intrusion. They have the ability to absorb atmospheric oxygen in their swim bladders from a mouthful of air. Even so, rolling behavior is a great indicator to alert anglers of available fish in an area. Tarpon will convert to feeding and then back to the benign gulping action again shortly afterwards.

Tarpon feed mostly below the surface, with only large surface boils to be observed. But on occasion, tarpon will explode on menhaden and mullet schools skimming just below the surface tension. Fishermen should always be on guard for any surface activity.

If tarpon didn’t roll at the surface and gulp air, finding them would be nearly impossible.

About Jeff Burleson 1311 Articles
Jeff Burleson is a native of Lumberton, N.C., who lives in Myrtle Beach, S.C. He graduated from N.C. State University with a degree in fisheries and wildlife sciences and is a certified biologist and professional forester for Southern Palmetto Environmental Consulting.

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