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World's Largest Tarpon On Fly Released - Homosassa

Capt. Mike Locklear
August 19, 2008
Homosassa - Saltwater Fishing Report

Click to Enlarge Photo

Folks this story is about the "world's largest tarpon ever caught on the fly rod." There are not words to describe the passion that overwhelms a tarpon angler. They are truly "junkies". The setting is Peter Moyer and Mike Locklear together pursuing the greatest sport ever tried on a fly rod with [8kg. tippet] on a 10-weight fly rod. Below are some raw quotes from us via e-mail.

[Moyer]: Thanks for the photos. I especially like the up close subsurface photo. The colors are great, and you get an idea of the size of that huge fish.

Click to Enlarge Photo

[Capt. Mike - To: King] Included are a couple of photos. A tremendous fish. Yes releasing her was far more exciting than any other way. Peter had her controlled to the point of gaffing her. Later that evening after the fish was caught, I found that my lip gaff was inside the bow hatch and my tape was in the white box I carry. I really thought I had neither but it is not a big deal to us anyway. I feel either way she would have died had we not let her go when we did. Measuring her is just not a good idea because you have to lift her head and while she is subdued, wrap a tape measure around her belly. By that time her organs have shifted and she would have died at boat side or the big bull sharks surely would have bitten her to pieces later on. The kicker is had we measured her and the girth was 45-inches then we would have been tempted Poon sin and lost our morals. It was so very nice to watch her swim away and the reaction on Peter's face was that of a very satisfied client/angler. I am truly glad we did not try to gaff her.

Click to Enlarge Photo

[Moyer:] Slim rigged my flies last season on 16 (17.5), including the fly used on May 5. His rigs are very precise, and you can clearly see the end of the rig in one of your photos. Measuring from that photo the Tarpon was 83" long from nose to fork. That is conservative – I allowed for the bend around her head. She was very deep and wide – I would guess 45" or so. A big fish, in any event. I believe Jim Holland's fish was 46" by 76". I still feel great that we released her. 60-70 years to get that big, carrying 10-15 million eggs with the right DNA. Thanks again for the great job you did, Mike!

I have tried to be very careful and conservative in my calculations. I measured all of Slim's rigs done at the same time with those particular flies. The total lengths ranged from 39" to 39.4". She was hooked in the corner of the mouth, you have the full shock tippet in your hand boatside, and I figured about 38" of Slim's leader was outside the mouth. Using calipers from the corner of the mouth to the end of the tippet (which can be clearly seen in one photo and can also be seen in 2 others), I swung the 38" once more towards the tail. There was at least 3˝" left to the fork, and at least 3˝" inches from the corner of the mouth to the end of the mouth. Those are very conservative measurements. 38 + 38 + 3˝ + 3˝ = 83 inches. She was very deep and wide, and I believe 45" in girth is also conservative. 7 inches longer than Jim Holland's fish, which was 46" in girth.

I know a lot of b.s. can go into claims of giant fish, but your photo is very clear, Slim's leaders are very precise, and I am trying to be very conservative and careful.

I really appreciate your attitude, Capt. Mike. A lot of guides would like the personal glory in that situation, but you were as happy as I was, when we released her and watched her swim away. Yes, she really was very likely to be that big. Interesting that Al thought she could be over 200. I honestly thought that at the time, too.

I guess it is easy to obsess over these things, when the season is over and it's back to Wyoming for 11 months! I honestly could care less about world record fame and glory (real or imagined). It is nice to commend Mike and encourage conservation, and the rest is basically curiosity about just how big that huge fish really was – Mike's one picture did help, since it shows Slim's rig, the fly was right in the corner, and Slim's rigs were all 39" to 39.4". The subsurface picture boat side showed some of the Walmart belly, but obviously nothing objective.

I don't know how your one photo could be any clearer and more reliable for measuring the length, and I was very conservative in my measurements. The two 3˝" measurements (on each end) could easily be more like 5" each, particularly from the corner of the mouth (where the fly was lodged) to the end of the snout. If anything, a tape measurement in the water (you are not supposed to lift them out of the water under current regs) would have been less reliable and would not be recorded in a photo.

On the girth, that is subjective. Your one photo (subsurface, boatside) shows a very deep and wide fish. Those half jumps right in front of me showed an enormous bulk – that is when I started thinking she was over 200. I have seen a lot of very large Tarpon in close over the years in Homosassa, but nothing even close to that. It is also interesting that the Tarpon seem to be fatter in recent years, due to net ban mullet or shrimp boat bycatch.

I dug out Jim Holland's 2001 article on the 202 pound world record. They initially guessed under 160. Then after an hour close in they estimated 160 to 165. Then at boatside on a lip gaff 165 to 170.

I am virtually certain we had the one, Capt. Mike, and 210 lbs. by the formula is conservative. But we made the right call in releasing a great, great fish. Kudos to you, your great work guiding, and your high ethics. Conservation gets to be more and more important, as time goes on.

[Locklear] Peter has had two mounts made. One for him and me from King Sails Taxidermy. I, too, believe this fish could have been well over 210 pounds because the measurements are in fact conservative. I truly believe all said and done that the tarpon was the largest caught on fly not only at Homosassa but the world.

The greatest feat was she is probably still out there and got to lay her eggs. I wish there was a way to protect these great fish from killing them for any reason. We would see more tarpon as a result of it. I have never seen the tarpon fishing as bad as it is now in Homosassa. Two tarpon caught all season in Homosassa.

Included below is the story I wrote about the ‘world's largest tarpon caught on May 5.

Without a doubt, fly fishing for tarpon gets in the blood and when you come from a family of tarpon guides I think it is in the genes. As much as I try to relax about the sport I still get so excited when I look at these huge fish that Homosassa offers.

Being back on the poling platform requires me to stay calm and give instructions to my client so he does not get too excited. It does not always work.

I knew that on May 5, my season fish was hooked up with long time visitor Peter Moyer of Homosassa. We guessed the 7-foot thick and wide toad to be 190+. I could go into the poetry and art of how that big fish reacted but I just can't bring myself to write it right now. Like Flip Pallot once said, the memory of the experience is burned into the mind forever and can be played back at will.

More importantly the man on the other end of the rod is the more interesting subject to write about. I do not have enough time to write but a piece of it now.

From experience of more than 15 seasons of 14 straight days Moyer has figured the game out from an angling sense that he is one of the top producers of the sport. Only his neighbor, Tom Evans has more time on the water spending the month of May with his dedicated captain.

His captains' guide him to fish and positions the boat so as to provide a clear shot with his 10-weight fly rod. I have witnessed a 7-weight in his hand and watch him bring in an 80-pound tarpon on it.

Many hours of preparation goes into his hand tied flies that he prepares while out in his home near Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He will be watching tarpon videos and perhaps pulling on a Michelob Ultra or something better.

With Moyer and friend Tom gone, the fish will have a rest from these eccentric weirdoes. Truly the big tarpon are having a full moon party somewhere far away from here. No one has seen a school of fish the past few days. They have gone away to who knows where.

They will be back though and so will the anglers return year after year.

That huge tarpon was not touched by man and I did not get close enough to get a DNA sample but I did hold the tippet in my hand and said good bye to a friend, not a foe. Moyer was very pleased and got his fish of a lifetime perhaps a 200 pound plus tarpon.

This is what Homosassa tarpon fishing is all about. Getting a shot at a fish of a lifetime and preparing for it because it is in our blood.

Homosassa Fishing Forecast:

Redfish will be abundant through September

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