Tenacious Tarpon Tows Two

Weekly news, tips, trivia, fun facts and wild tales from the outdoors

March 23, 2005

Tenacious Tarpon Tows Two

Two south Florida neighbors went for a wild ride last week in a 10-foot jonboat, while being towed by a tarpon estimated to weigh nearly 200 pounds! Before the ride ended with a successful release of their catch and a return to their home dock, the pair covered about six miles of open water. This week we also serve up a reprise of the legend of “Hogzilla” and the story of a significant big-game poaching bust in Texas.

J.R. Absher

Who Caught Whom?

For his weekly column in Sunday’s South Florida Sun-Sentinel, outdoor scribe Steve Waters recounted the wild experience of Plantation, Fla., resident Joe Hogle, who hooked the fish of a lifetime while casting into the canal in his backyard last week. Then, along with his neighbor, Mike Strassel, he took an hour-long ride behind the battling fish, eventually being towed out to open water in a tiny, 10-foot boat.

While watching his friend fight the huge silver fish with a Garcia baitcasting reel spooled with 17-pound-test line and a 5-1/2-foot plug rod that looked like it was going to bust in half, Strassel made an astute observation.

“We pulled up 20 feet from the fish and we are being towed towards the ocean. We are now 20 minutes into the fight and I realize I should have brought a lip gaff and some beer,” Strassel recalled.

By then it was apparent that neither the fish nor Hogle had any intention of giving up, and Strassel tried to attract the attention of some homeowners in the hopes of obtaining a cold drink. Eventually, as the tarpon towed them past a youngster’s canal-side birthday party, a charitable mother took pity on the pair and handed them two cold ones.

When the epic neared its completion, Strassel steered the boat into shore and the two men grabbed the battle-weary fish in shallow water, removing the treble hook and then slowly and methodically reviving the tarpon before releasing it — to bring excitement to another angler.

“We have caught 42-inch snook in that canal, plenty of tarpon, a million mullet, but never a tarpon that big. The stars were aligned that day,” said the boatman.

Indeed, they were.

‘Hogzilla’ Revisited

The legend of “Hogzilla,” the massive, wild boar killed by a hunter last year in South Georgia, was the subject of a National Geographic TV special this week. A team of experts that exhumed and tested the buried boar determined, once and for all, the existence of the big pig that put Alapaha, Georgia (pop. 682) on the map — and all over the Internet — in 2004.

The study team confirmed that Hogzilla was indeed real — and really, really big — though it didn’t quite live up to the 1,000-pound, 12-foot billing generated when Chris Griffin shot it on a farm last summer and photographed it hanging from a backhoe.

While Alapaha adopted a Hogzilla theme for its 2004 fall festival and parade, skeptics worldwide opined that the photo had been altered and the whole story was a fake.

National Geographic staffers confirmed that Hogzilla’s tusks, measuring 17-10/16 inches long, are a Safari Club International North American free-range record.

Ken Holyoak, owner of the 1,500-acre fish farm and hunting preserve where the premiere pig was shot, still insists Hogzilla weighed a half ton on his farm scales and measured 12 feet long.

“As with any organic being after death, tissues will decompose and the body will atrophy. Have you ever seen a raisin after it was a grape?”

However, Nancy Donnelly, producer of the documentary, said scientists considered decomposition when estimating Hogzilla’s size.

Still, “he was an impressive beast,” she said. “Definitely a freak of nature.”

ONH Police Blotter

Two men face multiple felony poaching charges after a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department undercover investigation that spanned two states, 1,100 miles and, which involved antlered deer heads being sold over the Internet.

“Operation Head Hunter” began in October of 2003 and involved TPWD game wardens going ‘hunting’ with the suspects. During the last 15 months, the wardens built their cases against Jerry Neil Schmidt, 38, and Matthew Ross Cates, 33, both of Abilene.

Schmidt faces a total of seven felony charges and five Class A misdemeanors in Texas and one felony charge and three misdemeanors in New Mexico. His bond was set at $275,000. Cates faces five felony charges and five Class A misdemeanor charges. His bond was set at $74,000.

Research Supports Hunting

A new report compiled by the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, (IAFWA) supports the premise that hunting is the best method to help manage and control wildlife populations in America.

Hunting and trapping in some states have been threatened by legislation that would prevent them from being used as wildlife management tools, a trend that can lead to far-reaching, detrimental effects. According to the survey, without hunting and trapping, economic damage caused by wildlife would skyrocket more than 200 percent — from its current level of $22 billion to $70 billion.

In addition, “Bears in the Backyard, Deer in the Driveway,” 2004, indicates that as rapid development encroaches habitat in many areas of the country, wildlife and people will be forced to interact more frequently, thus setting the stage for conflict. As a result, problems are escalating for wildlife professionals throughout the United States — problems ranging from deer-auto collisions, property and environmental damage, and the spread of diseases contracted both by people and animals.

The IAFWA report notes that U.S. whitetail populations stand at record levels, and deer complaints are increasing more than twice as fast as deer populations.

During the past five years, state agencies’ expenditures to address deer damage have increased by an average of 23 percent. Personnel hours assigned to control deer damage have increased 22 percent. In addition, a total of 87 percent of all auto accident injuries involving animals are from deer, causing over $1 billion in damage annually. Without regulated hunting, the report concludes that number would more than triple, to $3.8 billion.

In the case of deer control alone, people would have to pay a $9 billion tab to keep the populations at an accepted level. Without regulated hunting, deer damage is expected to increase by 218 percent, and deer populations could increase and additional 145 percent.

Quote Of The Week

“Do fishermen eat avocados? This is a question no one ever thinks to ask.”

Russell Chatman

“Dark Waters,” 1988


J.R. Absher is a freelance outdoor writer whose articles and columns appear in numerous national publications. Visit his Web sites, The Outdoor Pressroom (www.outdoorpressroom.com and The Outdoor Weblog www.outdoorweblog.com ) to find the latest outdoor news of interest. He offers his unique perspective of the outdoors weekly for sportsmansguide.com. You may contact him at jrabsher@outdoorpressroom.com.

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