Few fish can beat the action of running, jumping and bobbing their heads like a big tarpon on the end of an angler’s line. Combine that fight with rod bending weights of 200 pounds or more, and you have a recipe for the most popular gamefish in saltwater fishing. These days there are thousands of anglers targeting massive tarpon, each hoping for a chance to break one of the many popular world record categories for these fish. Because unlike some species of fish like smallmouth bass or walleye, where it feels like anglers have reached the maximum size limits for the species, we’ve seen enough to know that there are huge tarpons swimming there that could break the current tarpon. records under the right circumstances.
The world record for all tackles for Tarpon
There are a host of record catches for tarpon out there. However, none are more sought after than the International Game Fish Association world all-tackle record. The current tarpon world record belongs to Max Domecq. In March 2003, Domecq was on a fishing trip off the west coast of Africa when he snagged a monstrous 286-pound, 9-ounce monster near the island of Rubane in Guinea-Bissau. The record hold was 90 inches long and had a circumference of 50 inches.
There are not many details of the Domecq socket available. We know he caught the fish on a CAP rod and Daiwa Sealine 4/0 reel while using an 80 pound test line. This fish jointly holds the line class world record for the 80-pound test line. We also know that he used a mule as bait.
Other than that, there are two other key details of Domecq’s take that are worth mentioning. The first is that this tarpon was Domecq’s very first! Some people are as lucky as it seems. Secondly, there is a rumor circulating on the internet that Domecq failed to tip his fishing guide after the massive catch. We don’t know if it’s true or not. Do what you want with it. In any case, this fish still holds the number one spot despite some close calls from other giant tarpons in recent years.
We haven’t seen the biggest tarpon yet
If there’s one thing anglers can agree on, it’s well documented that there are tarpons much larger than Domecq’s catch swimming in the world’s oceans. In most cases, the fishermen either didn’t know what they had and released it, or the circumstances of the catch simply prevented it from being listed in the records. For example, an 8-foot tarpon with a circumference of 53 inches was caught by Jan Trombl off the beaches of Anna Maria Island in 2013.
In this fish’s case, multiple anglers took turns fighting it, meaning it probably wouldn’t have been eligible for the all-tackle world record anyway. However, estimates of this fish’s weight put it in the 300-pound range. The fishermen and the guide were unkilled fishermen. So they released him and didn’t learn he might have been the biggest ever until they got back to shore.
In February 2017, photos began circulating of a huge tarpon captured in Olende, Gabon, Africa. Details about it were sketchy, but it was estimated to weigh around 326 pounds.
Then there is the case of a 9ft 2in beast that was allegedly caught off the coast of Nicaragua in 2014. The fishermen responsible for this catch appear to be unknown. It would have had a slightly smaller circumference of 48 inches, but was still estimated to be in the 300-pound range.
More recently, in 2021, popular angler YouTuber Joshua Jorgensen, also known as Blacktip H, was filming an episode for his channel off the coast of Bahio Solano, Colombia, when he snagged a massive, invasive tarpon . Jorgensen would probably have fought this fish alone, but he decided to share the fighting duties with one of his friends, Dr. Robert Borrego. It was because Jorgensen had just undergone surgery for a herniated disc in his back. The injury made the unexpected giant a bit too tough to fight. Just like the Trombl tarpon, the IGFA probably wouldn’t have counted it.
Either way, when the anglers finally brought the huge tarpon on board, they thought it was the 200 pound range and released the fish to fight another day. It wasn’t until much later that they spoke to tarpon experts who felt the fish was probably closer to the 312-pound range. There’s no doubt that this is the largest tarpon ever captured on video, which you can watch above.
There are plenty of other examples like these. Some giants were caught in nets, and in other stories the fishermen simply did not have the necessary equipment for proper weighing. This is probably quite a moot point. In truth, it may be an awfully long time before the all-terrain tarpon record falls, even if anglers regularly catch giants like these. I feel like it’s because anglers have become more hesitant to keep a tarpon, and killing it is the only way to get an accurate weight on a three hundred pound tarpon. They are also not known to be big fish eaters. As a result, many anglers have simply put more emphasis on catch and release. In fact, in many popular fisheries like Puerto Rico, there are now regulations that dictate catch and release only for the species.
Many anglers these days target tarpon with a more conservation-oriented mindset. They want other anglers to have a chance to tangle with these giants. We suspect the downfall of some popular tarpon fisheries, like the one around Homosassa, Florida, may have something to do with it. Fishermen today seem much more concerned about the preservation of this species than they were in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.
Notable Tarpon Line class records
There are probably more people looking for line class records for tarpon than for any other species. This applies to both salt water and fresh water. This is displayed when you scan the record books.
The second largest tarpon ever recorded by the IGFA includes two 30-pound line class world records of 283 pounds. The first was captured by Mario Salazar in Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela, in March 1956, and another off Sherbro Island, Sierra Leone, by Yvon Sebag in April 1991.
The third largest tarpon ever recorded by the IGFA is another Sherbo Island giant. This one is a 271-pounder that currently holds the 50-pound test line record. He was captured by Pierre Clostermann in March 1993.
From there, the IGFA records several other big tarpon line class records in the 200-260 pound range, and some of the biggest catches on the weaker line tests aren’t necessarily the biggest. Impressive either. Just take Elizabeth’s 1991 Hogan catch of a 56-pounder using a two-pound test line. Or George Hogan’s 106-pound beast caught on a two-pound line off Marathon Key, Florida in June 1992. He also caught a 139-pounder on a six-pound line. Hogan has held a staggering 26 IGFA World Records, 14 of which are current.
Then there are Tom Evan’s fly fishing records. Evans has held no less than seven tippet records for tarpon, in three different line classes. One of his most notable was a 194-pound, 8-ounce giant on a 12-pound tippet off Pine Island, Florida in May 2010. As you can see, once anglers set records for class of tarpon in blood, it’s hard for them to stop chasing them!
As we have already noted, there are many species of sport fish that seem to have reached the absolute limits of their maximum size. It’s gotten to the point where catching a new high for some cash can have the same odds as winning the Powerball lottery. The tarpon is not one of these species. Catching the giants is always incredibly difficult, but recent history has shown that the big ones await anglers who are willing to work for them.
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