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Anglers get 'catch of a lifetime' near Anna Maria Island

Beachgoers thought it was a shark when the two anglers caught the fish.
Credit: Captain Tyler Kapela
Captain Tyler Kapela of Hit and Run Charters catches a 211 pound Tarpon near Anna Maria Island on Thursday, May 13, 2021.

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — Tarpon fishing is very popular in Florida because there’s a lot of them, and they can get quite big. Captain Tyler Kapela from Hit and Run Charters in St. Petersburg sees them frequently with his fishing charters.

Thursday, just off Anna Maria Island in Manatee County, Kapela and his charter client, Russel, caught a fish that onlookers along the beach thought might be a shark because of its size. Kapela told 10 Tampa Bay that this was the "fish of a lifetime" for his client. 

The tarpon weighed a whopping 211 pounds and measured an 84-inch fork length. Fork length of a fish is measured from the most anterior part of the head to the deepest point of the notch in the tail fin. 

That’s one big fish. Bigger than most people. Eighty-four inches would equate to a 7-foot tall person who weighs more than 200 pounds. But, it’s not the record. 

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) says the Florida state record for tarpon caught with conventional tackle is 243 pounds, caught by Gus Bell in Key West in 1975

Record or not, a fish as big as Kapela and his client caught will be one they won’t forget anytime soon. 

Since the tarpon is a catch-and-release fish, a quick weigh, measure and photo was taken and the fish was released back into the water.

5 facts about tarpon:

  1. Cool nickname. Tarpon are also known as the ‘silver king’. They’re the most silvery of fishes. Their large scales shine like plate glass mirrors. (Florida Sportsman)
  2. Near human-like long lives. Many tarpon live more than 50 years. The oldest tarpon on record lived to be 63 years old. (FWC)
  3. An ancient fish. Tarpon are believed to have been around for the past 125 million years, first described by science in 1847. (Orvis.com)
  4. Lots of baby tarpon. One female can lay as many as 12 million eggs over its life. Tarpon spawn from April through July. (TarponFish.com)
  5. You can’t keep them. Tarpon can only be fished recreationally in Florida. Because the fish have too many small bones, they have no food value. Anglers can keep them for trophy purposes at the cost of $50.00 per tag, per fish. Without the tag, it’s illegal. (FWC)

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