Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Voices from the Past: The Tarpon (1905)

The following selection is from the March 1905 Outing Magazine, and features the great Tarpon -- one of the cagiest and most powerful saltwater game fish of all time. It was written by Edward H. Hudson and was entitled "The Giant of the Mexican Gulf."



A dozen years ago our stock of knowledge relating to the tarpon, or tarpum as it is sometimes called by sailors, was very limited, and practically nothing was known of it as a game fish. It is only within the past five years that close, accurate and systematic study has been made of its nature and habits, and even yet our knowledge is far from complete; there remain some doubts to be cleared away concerning its winter habits and home; and there are some disputed points to be settled among anglers in regard to the most successful and sportsmanlike manner of taking.

Tarpon fishing had been engaged in to a limited extent in the waters of the Florida shore for a number of years in a precursory way, but it remained for Mr. E. M. K. Green to conceive the idea of organizing a Tarpon Club, making original investigations and giving the tarpon its deserved place on the list of game fish.

The site chosen for the club house was the little island of St. Joe, which is thirty miles in length and in width varies from one to three miles, being off Rockport's eastern shore is washed by the Gulf of Mexico and its western beach is swept by the swift and treacherous currents of Aransas Bay — a narrow strait separating it from the mainland of Texas.

It was stated in a book on fishes published in New York in the year 1884, that no man was strong enough to hold a tarpon unless provided with some kind of drag or buoy attached to a hand line. In the light of recent accomplishments in tarpon fishing this statement appears to have been made without much observation or foresight. A tarpon over six feet in length has been taken at the Texas Club by a boy under thirteen years of age, and another as large by a woman weighing less than ninety pounds. Mr. Robert Grant, in 1896, said that no less than one hundred tarpon had been taken with rod and reel. So we see that tarpon fishing was yet in its infancy in 1896. In the "Encyclopedia of Sport," published in England in 1897, it was stated that at that time something like two thousand tarpon had been taken, the largest of which was 7 feet 2 inches. During the first season at the Texas club, according to its official bulletin for the year, two hundred and forty-two tarpons were landed by members and guests of the club. The catches to date number 2,961. The shortest time made in a catch, according to the records, was ten minutes, and the longest six hours. The largest catch to date was made by Mr. C. W. Dawley, of Dallas, Texas: it measured 7 feet 10 inches and weighed 175 pounds, girth 42 inches. The smallest catch was in length three-fourths of an inch and weighed 17 grains.

-- Dr. Todd

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