Saturday began as a special morning as I had the opportunity to take five of my friends out fishing, of which four had not done so from a kayak yet. The weather was sketchy at best as severe thunderstorms had been rolling through our Gulf Coast communities all week at various times of the day. Strategically, we decided to launch our kayaks at dawn within some waters protected from the west winds with access to a small bay. I was excited to share my sport with some good friends, but also it was the first fishing outing in my new kayak, the Hobie Pro Angler 12 recently released.
The fishing picked up around 7:00AM and by end of the morning between the six of us, we had caught seven species of fish, including flounder and speckled trout. The weather remained cloudy and although there was wind, it was manageable.
I was fly fishing, as I nearly always do. Reading the maps prior to the outing I noticed a drop off just beyond the piers that lined the shore, and made a mental note that I would fish this transition during the tide movement that morning near an inlet. I normally carry three fly rods on my kayak, so to be rigged with different fly patterns tied to a 6wt, 8wt, and 10wt rod. Between the three different options, I am ready for wind or finesse, whatever may be required for the situation.
At 7:30AM, I missed a good fish that only remained on for a second. Picking the floating line off the water, I made one false cast and delivered the olive and white clouser minnow fly right back where I had the first bite. As soon as I started the retrieval, a large fish crashed my fly just beneath the surface and made a strong run. I keep my drag relatively light after losing a fish last year when it was too tight. This time it was too loose and the force of the first run spun the reel faster than the line was running out and tangled my line inside the reel. While stripping to clear the tangle, I had to maintain focus on keeping leverage on the fish as it was now swimming back toward my kayak. During the next couple of runs, the fish ended up stripping all 105 feet of fly line off my reel to the backing. As I gained ground on the nice ladyfish, I remembered something told to my friends as we launched. I had misplaced my net that morning in the garage and with tongue in cheek I told them that I hoped I didn’t catch a large fish for fear of losing it in attempting to land it by hand. The fight came to a close after ten or so leaps into the air, a few strong runs, and a ten minute battle. The ladyfish was ready for landing once brought to the side of my new PA12.
Ladyfish are not a prime target species in the region of the Gulf Coast. They are known as poor man’s tarpon around these parts, but I really enjoy the sport of catching a ladyfish on a fly rod. Never before had I caught a 24.25 inch ladyfish, and so my friend Matt Jones was gracious enough to take time out of his fishing to snap a photo of the nice catch, and the first fish brought to hand in my new kayak! I measured it and took a photo to capture my personal best of this particular species caught on a fly.
What I didn’t realize was this turned out to be not just my personal best ladyfish on a fly, but it measures longer than the IGFA All Tackle World Record Length category for a ladyfish! I learned this upon doing some research once home after a friend asked what the Alabama state record was. Most records are measured in pounds, but this particular world record category for catch and release angling is measured in length.
Today, after some correspondence with the nice folks at the IGFA, I was informed that indeed the ladyfish I caught was longer than the current world record by 1.42 inches! My nearly uncontainable excitement tempered a bit when the gentleman followed that up by saying they were very sorry to have to inform me that the world record class fish of its’ species would not in the end qualify due to a technicality. I have not really ever thought through the remote possibility of catching a world record fish. Therefore, my measuring device, although a certified scale for tournaments I compete in, is not the official IGFA measuring device required for documenting a world record catch. Ugh.
Yes, I am extremely disappointed to not officially be able to claim an all tackle world record of catching this ladyfish by method of a fly, but as a friend told me today, “That’s fishing!” And so, a poor man’s tarpon will forever be a treasured memory for me, and a story that I will surely share into the future with family, friends, and fishing buddies.
Note: Thank you to Kayak Angler Magazine for interest in publishing the story on their website on July 31, 2012.
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