Tagging Tarpon for Conservation in S.C.

News & Tips: Tagging Tarpon for Conservation in S.C....

TaggingTarponConservation blogThe Bonefish and Tarpon Trust (BTT) held their fourth annual Lowcountry Tarpon tourney in Georgetown, South Carolina. The purpose of the two-day tarpon tourney is to educate Lowcountry anglers about proper tarpon release tactics, but also to deploy satellite tags for tracking research.

Within the last decade, an aggregation of tarpon during the September mullet run has drawn the attention of local fishing guides. Conservation plays a grand role in this section of the coastal Lowcountry and the BTT decided to bring their tarpon tags to town. With a price tag of $5,000 apiece, these archival pop-off tags relay data via satellite anytime the tarpon roll on the surface.

Local tourney organizer Dr. Antonia Castellvi welcomed Dr. Jerry Ault from the University of Miami and Dr. Aaron Adams from the BTT to town. Ault gave a multimedia presentation about why tarpon are globally important, and how the tarpon in S.C. can be tracked during their southward migration, often ending up in the Gulf of Mexico.

The 2013 tournament saw 18 boats participate, with an average of three people per boat. Captain Robert Mayer of Georgetown was able to guide his two anglers to victory by catching and releasing two tarpon. Fishing out of a 22-foot Scout boat, George Douglas and Spencer Faw each released one tarpon. The first tarpon ate a 12-inch mullet fished on top under a Cajun Thunder float, and the 80-pound tarpon was released after only a five-minute fight.

The second tarpon was a 140-pound beast, and proved to be a much tougher fight. With lots of large tarpon encountered here, saltwater anglers are careful with these older spawning fish. After a one-hour fight Capt. Mayer called for Dr. Ault to come in the chase boat and apply a satellite tag. The tarpon broke off the fishing line sometime after the swivel reached the rod tip, giving them a legal release, but before their tagging opportunity was completed. But that’s fishing.

South Carolina passed a new law in 2013 adding a higher level of protection for the large tarpon that are present. The new law limits any tarpon harvest to one fish per day with a minimum of 77-inches fork length. Previously there was no size restriction for tarpon in S.C., and this new law helps to spread a message of conservation. Most anglers already understand that a proper tarpon release far outweighs any other outcome.