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Capt. Derrick Jacobsen

Waterline Magazine - May, 2003



Capt. Allan Beraquit & Capt. Derrick Jacobsen

June, 2003


 Jun 25, 2004
Record Tarpon At Boca Grande?


Capt. Brian Hart:
What might have been the largest tarpon ever caught anywhere in the world was released by captain Brian Hart and angler Scott Kenney about two weeks ago at Boca Grande Pass.

The massive fish, which Kenney photographed at boatside, taped 92 inches long and had a girth of 49 inches. Based on the standard formula for estimating tarpon weights - length times girth squared divided by 800 - the least the fish could have weighed is 276.1 pounds. But tarpon experts agree that the formula underestimates for fish more than 180 pounds by a factor of about 10 percent.

Giving Kenney's fish that extra 10 percent, it might have exceeded 300 pounds. Unfortunately, no one will ever know because the anglers quickly decided to release the tarpon, rather than kill it for the weigh- in that an official record requires.

The catch and measuring were witnessed by a biologist from the Florida Marine Research Institute, who was aboard to observe tarpon jigging tactics.

Kenney hooked the fish at about 7 a.m. on a breakaway jig fished just off bottom in the 72-foot-deep Lighthouse Hole. He said the fight was unusually short, especially considering the size of the fish. The biologist timed it at 22 minutes.

``We had a bull shark about 9 feet long come up under the fish at the boat,'' Hart said, ``and I think the tarpon was just too big for the shark to try to eat. It just faded away.''

Kenney, of Aurora, Ohio, said the fish swam off seemingly none the worse for wear. He said after the release he wished they had taken a scale for the biologist to use in determining the fish's age, but the important thing seemed to be to release the fish alive.

The all-tackle world record for tarpon is 286 pounds, 9 ounces, caught off the coast of Africa in March 2003. The largest tarpon weighed in from Florida waters was a 243- pounder caught at Key West in 1975.

Florida tarpon seem to be increasing steadily in maximum size since the 1989 introduction of the $50 tarpon ``kill tag,'' which virtually put an end to harvesting. Before the tag, anglers along the west coast, mostly at Boca Grande and Tampa Bay, killed more than 4,000 fish a year. Since the tag, that number has hovered around 100 annually.

Because tarpon are able to survive at least 50 years in the wild, the continuing growth of released fish might be having a major impact on the average size.

The typical fish boated at Boca Grande used to be around 80 pounds, but these days it is closer to 100.

Tournament-winning weights have risen about 40 pounds in the past decade, from a historic average around 110 to a present weight of close to 150 in many events.

Two years ago, captain Rob McCue and his angler taped another Boca Grande monster that was 90 inches long and had a girth of 46.5 inches. Its weight was estimated at somewhere more than 250 pounds, and it also was released.

Several fish in the 230- to 250-pound class have been landed in Tampa Bay in the past two years, including a 223-pounder that was weighed in at the Suncoast Tarpon Roundup in 2002.

Though Hart and Kenney won't be able to claim the record, odds appear to be very good that someone along Florida's southwest coast is going to set a world mark within the next year or two.

This story can be found at: http://outdoors.tbo.com/outdoors/MGBMHFUJVVD.htm





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