When it comes to sheer odds, catching a golden piebald tarpon is about as rare as it gets. Catching one that weighs more than 100 pounds? Well, that’ll get your name into some tall tales for years to come. According to Flyliner Charters, 16-year-old Will Chapman caught this large golden tarpon while fishing in the Florida panhandle late last month.
“We caught a unicorn yesterday. Not albino but definitely genetically rare. Piebald is a term the FWC uses to describe similar mutations,” Captain Patrick Dineen posted to the Flyliner Charters Facebook page. “It was my angler Will Chapman’s first tarpon. Pretty special.”
Pretty special is perhaps an understatement. Piebald tarpon with the unique silver-gold coloration of Chapman’s catch are rarely seen, and even more rarely caught. A similar tarpon was caught off Anna Maria Island in 2014, which anglers at the time referred to as simply a “pipe dream.” Veteran anglers may go their whole careers without seeing a piebald tarpon, but for Chapman, it was his very first catch of the species.
The young angler was fishing with his father, Mark Chapman, aboard Dineen’s 24-foot Skeeter.
“We did not realize the fish was different until halfway through the 20-minute fight,” Mark Chapman told the Bradenton Herald. “Will said the fish looked like a giant koi. It was absolutely beautiful once he got him near the boat, the tips of his pectoral fins were lit up bright blue similar to a pelagic.”
Despite his age, Mark Chapman said his son handled the unfamiliar fish like a pro. Once it was landed, the crew estimated the fish to weigh north of 100 pounds. It was kept alongside the boat for a few quick pictures, and then released safely. You can see video of the catch itself below:
Even Captain Dineen, who had caught countless fish in his career, remarked that the fish was one-of-a-kind.
“It was a captivating type of fish. My God, was it beautiful,” he told the Herald.