Possible 300-Pound Tarpon Caught and Released in Florida

I’ve read this announcement several times and still can’t get over the size – Almost 9 feet long with a 4 1/2-foot girth.  It came to my attention via an Outdoor Life Announcement.  Here’s what I received.

“There are fish that will test the resolve of even the most conservation-minded anglers. Florida saltwater guide Justin Moore has the story of such a fish. Moore, 33, (pictured here) who guides out of Anna Maria, Florida, led four clients to what may have been the largest tarpon ever caught with a rod and reel on June 24, 2013.

The fish was estimated to weigh between 310 and 340 pounds, which would have shattered the current world record, a 286-pound fish caught in Africa in 2003, and the Florida state record of 243 pounds set in 1975. 

The tarpon’s length and girth measurements were taken using a rod and string. The fish was released, and its true measurements remain unknown. The fish would not have qualified for consideration as a world record under IGFA guidelines because it was not measured using official measuring tools and more than one angler handled the rod during the fight.

Moore and his clients had a spectacular day of fishing prior to hooking the massive tarpon. They landed several fish in the 100- to 150-pound range like the one this photo above. That’s a tiring day of fishing for even the most enthusiastic anglers. Moore said they were getting ready to leave when Jan Toubl, aka the “Birdman,” felt the the take and decided to fight one last fish. Toubl, who is famous for the pheasant jerky he makes in Idaho, was fishing a threadfin herring on a 7/0 circle hook with 65-pound-test PowerPro line on a 9-foot spinning rod.
“The fish peeled off about 100 yards of line and then did a sideways roll,” said Moore. “Big fish have a hard time getting out of the water.”

Half an hour into the fight, Moore sensed there was something different about this tarpon. By that time, another client, Drew Denick, was on the rod. “Drew,” Moore told him, “This is a damn big fish.” 

“The fish had a ridiculous back and was long,” he said. “I had the drag hammered down, and every time I see this fish, it gets bigger.”

 An hour and 40 minutes into the fight, all four clients aboard Moore’s 23-foot boat had taken turns battling the tarpon. By the time the enormous fish came boatside, their arms were limp and their cell phones were dead from taking pictures earlier in the day. 

Moore recorded the fish’s size before releasing it. He used a 9-foot rod to estimate length and a stretch of braid marked with a cork to measure girth. The fish was nearly as long as the rod, but that’s not what surprised Moore the most. 

“I figured it had a girth of maybe 43, 44 inches he said. When one client held a tape to the cork, it measured 53 inches, meaning the tarpon likely would have weighed at least 300 pounds. Some calculations of a fish with those measurements even have the tarpon weighing closer to 400 than 300 pounds.

“I’d never seen a fish that big,” Moore said. “It was a special thing for me.”
One of Moore’s close friend was fishing the beach at least 500 yards away when he saw the tarpon jump out of the water. He immediately radioed Moore to express his surprise. Moore says he harbors no regrets about releasing it or not taking official measurements. He did not have a kill tag, which is required to kill or even remove any tarpon from the water in the state of Florida.

“I don’t kill tarpon,” he said. “There hasn’t ever been a part of me that ever wanted to. I’m not after a world-record fish. It was a personal best for me and I’m blessed.”