My new book, Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies --- Growing Up With Nature, will be out soon. You can check it out at the publisher's information page. You can't order yet, but you can see some of the content and a photo of me kissing a lizard!
When most anglers think of catching tarpon, they envision doing battle with muscular and acrobatic fish weighing 100 pounds or so.
But three Kansas anglers recently bested one that probably weighed more than 300 pounds and almost certainly would have been a world record had it been caught according to rules established by the International Game Fish Association.
Taken off the coast of Nicaragua, the massive tarpon was 110 inches long, with a girth of 46 inches. But it was mistakenly measured to the tip of the tail, instead of the fork, so a more accurate length probably is in the range of 102 inches.
Still, the world record measured just a little more than 90 inches, as it weighed in at 286-9. It was caught in 2003 off the coast of West Africa.
The Kansas friends, meanwhile, were fishing waters long favored by American fishermen. That’s because of the snook and tarpon that frequent the Caribbean coastal waters of both Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
I’ve caught plenty of both species down there, starting in 1988, with a trip to Archie Field’s Rio Colorado Lodge. Baseball great Gaylord Perry and his son were there at the time as well.
But what I best remember is hooking my first tarpon. I was fishing from the beach with 14-pound line and tackle that I typically used to catch bass. In other words, I was way overmatched.
I write about the battle in an essay entitled “You Just Never Know” for my book Why We Fish --- Reel Wisdom from Real Fishermen. Here’s an excerpt:
“All I could do was hold on. I knew I couldn’t stop the fish, no matter how skillfully I played it. I waded out into the water as far as I dared, knowing as I did so that it was a pointless gesture.
“But then the miraculous occurred, just as I looked down at my reel to see all the line gone except for the knot.”
I’ve since learned to use heavier tackle and stouter line for most tarpon. Still, if the fish are in the 20- to 40-pound range, bass tackle works just fine, and, in my opinion, tarpon of that size are much more fun to catch than those that top 100. They’re still strong and acrobatic, but they can be turned with drag and the fight typically takes 10 to 15 minutes.
Taking turns with the rod, those three Kansas friends sweated and strained for about 2 ½ hours to bring their massive fish to the boat. Somewhere during that stretch, I suspect, fun turned to work.
Smallmouth and largemouth bass assisted recently with an innovative program to boost sagging mussel populations in Wisconsin.
Carrying shellfish larvae in their gills, they were released into the Chippewa River by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).
“The fish will swim around like normal and, after a week or two, the mussel larvae will mature and drop from the fish gills down into the substrate,” explained biologist Nathan Eckert. “In doing a free release of fish with mussels, our hope is that the fish drop off more mussels than would occur naturally, thus bolstering the native population.”
For the project, 2,500 bass were released with larval mucket, 1,050 walleye with larval black sandshell , and 800 lake sturgeon with larval hickorynut.
“Mussels are nature’s water filter,” the biologist said. “They leave the water cleaner than they found it. This is a benefit that the public will receive, even if they do not notice it.”
Additionally, cleaner water allows for more robust phytoplankton and zooplankton populations, which provide the base of the food chain for bass and other game fish.
Biologists “equip” the fish by placing them in tubs of water and then pouring in the larvae. “We let them swim around in the mussel glochidia soup for about a half hour and, during that time, the mussels grab ahold of the fish’s gills,” Eckert said.
With preliminary findings encouraging, FWS also has used this method to assist with recovery of the endangered Higgins eye pearlymussel in tributaries of the Upper Mississippi River.
“We haven't found many, but we have recovered individuals from multiple age classes in two of those streams and the individuals have reached maturity,” the biologist explained.
“Now we are watching and waiting to see if those individuals will start reproducing on their own. Once we have documented that the animals we released are reproducing, we can declare the effort a success and the population has been re-established in these streams where that mussel hasn't been seen in the last 100 years.”
“There will be days when the fishing is better than one's most optimistic forecast, others when it is far worse. Either is a gain over just staying home.” --- Roderick Haig-Brown
“Beginners may ask why one fishes if he is to release his catch. They fail to see that the live trout, sucking in the fly and fighting the rod is the entire point to our sport. Dead trout are just so much lifeless meat.” --- Ernest G. Schwiebert, Jr.
“I fish better with a lit cigar; some people fish better with talent.” ---Nick Lyons
“By the time I had turned thirty, I’d realized two important things. One, I had to fish. Two, I had to work for a living.” --- Mallory Burton
“I never drink water because of the disgusting things that fish do in it.” --- W.C. Fields
Season two of TrophyCatch was a "huge success," according to The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
“In season two alone, we documented about 1,000 trophy-sized bass caught in Florida and released to continue growing, spawning and challenging anglers,” said Tom Champeau, director of the FWC’s Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management.
Five anglers caught Hall of Fame bass weighing more than 13 pounds each. They will receive hand-painted replicas of their catches (a $500 value), as well as $200 in gift cards from Bass Pro Shops, Rapala and/or Dick’s Sporting Goods.
Another 229 anglers joined the Trophy Club in season two by submitting photos documenting bass 10 to 12.9 pounds that they caught and released. Each earned $150 in gift cards, plus a long-sleeve custom shirt from Bass King Clothing.
A remarkable 758 bass weighing 8 to 9.9 pounds were entered in the Lunker Club, and each generated $100 in gifts cards and a short-sleeve Bass King T-shirt. Finally, 386 bass over 8 pounds were submitted that did not have the required information to be accepted into TrophyCatch but received certificates as Big Catches.
Although all bass must have been caught between Oct. 1, 2013, and Sep. 30, 2014, to be included in the season two competition, anglers have until Oct. 15 to get their catch submitted and approved. After that the annual champion will be announced and win the Championship Ring, provided by the Americans Outdoor Fund. The current leader is Joseph Morrell, who caught, documented’ and released a 14-pound, 9-ounce Florida largemouth on March 8 in Kingsley Lake, Clay County.
Every angler who registered, free of cost, at TrophyCatchFlorida.com is entered into an annual drawing for a $40,000 bass boat package. Phoenix boats donated a 619 Pro, powered by Mercury Marine and equipped with a Power-Pole shallow-water anchoring system. In addition, every time an angler has a TrophyCatch verified, he or she earned 10 more chances to win the boat.
To see who the finalists are for this year’s random drawing and to learn when and where the boat will be given away, go to FaceBook.com/TrophyCatchFlorida. By subscribing to YouTube.com/TrophyCatchFlorida you can check out the winners from the first year and be notified when the new winners’ videos are posted.
“Year two produced five times as many winners as the first year,” said KP Clements, TrophyCatch director. “We know there are many more trophy bass that were caught and released but not documented because anglers did not have the necessary tools to verify the weight or didn’t yet know about the program.”
Remember, season three (Oct.1, 2014 – Sep. 30, 2015) is underway, so take a camera and scale fishing with you. Be sure to get the required photo of the entire bass, head-to-tail on the scale, with the weight legible, and the scale held properly by the handle. The photo of the whole fish on the scale is critical to being approved for rewards, so the higher the resolution and sharper the image the better.
You also may submit supplemental photos that aren’t required. Consider including a close-up of the scale to make it easier to read the weight, a photo of the length and maybe girth, and a photo of the angler holding or releasing the catch. You can upload up to five photos or an MP4 video with each submission.
Tournament anglers can participate by submitting a photo of themselves with their catch and a link to the official tournament results showing their name, the weight of the individual bass, date and water body. Another option for large-tournament anglers is to include a photo of a digital scale printout that has that data imprinted on it.
Fishing guides around the state are finding this a great way to promote their business by helping customers get the required weight photos and telling them how easy it is to register and submit their catch.
All of this activity helps achieve the TrophyCatch goals, which are to preserve these valuable fish, learn how to enhance their abundance, and promote recreational fishing.
To see all the catches, go to TrophyCatchFlorida.com and click on “View Gallery” or “Search.” The latter allows you to narrow down results by angler, county, water body or date.