On June 24, Captain Justin Moore took four anglers just off Anna Maria Island in Florida for a day of sunshine and good fishing. According to the Bradenton Herald, the group consisted of two of Moore’s long time clients, Drew Denrick and Ron Joyce, and two Wisconsin anglers, Jeremy and Jan Tombl. After hours of fighting tarpon the anglers were getting weary and ready to return to shore. By that point a storm was building overhead and Moore decided it was a good time to bring in the baits. Then Jan Tombl’s bait was hit by something massive.
“I didn’t see the fish at first,” Moore said. “I was concentrating on the school trying to get a doubleheader at that point. [Another guide] Craig Madsen saw it. He called me and said ‘That’s a huge fish you’ve got on.’”
Moore was determined to land the fish and for 90 minutes the anglers took turns fighting to wear the tarpon down.
“When it got up to the boat we couldn’t believe the size of it. I’ve seen 200-pound fish before, and this was significantly bigger,” Moore recalled. “Everything was bigger, including the scales, eyeball, and anal fin.”
The captain used a nine-foot custom fishing rod to measure the fish’s length and a line with a bobber to gauge the tarpon’s dorsal girth. The monster catch came in at eight feet long and 53 inches in girth, easily the largest anyone on the boat has ever seen. Unfortunately, all the cameras onboard had dead batteries. Moore did manage to scrape up an iPad and used it to record video of the fish as it swam beside the boat. Experts believe that based on the video and Moore’s measurements, the tarpon could have weighed anywhere between 300 and 340 pounds. If confirmed, the catch would be both a state and world record.
The authority on fishing world records, the International Game Fish Association, allows catch-and-release records with very stringent requirements. That does not apply to tarpon, which have to be killed and weighed ashore. Moore stands by his decision to release the fish and hopes that it will pass on its strong genes.
“One of the reasons that fish was so big was because of the eggs she was carrying,” Moore said. “Most likely she is offshore spawning now, and I feel better about that than any record.”
You can view video of the catch below:
The IGFA’s current all-tackle record for tarpon is a 286-pound beast caught by angler Max Domecq off the coast of Guinea-Bissau.