Presidential Tarpon: What, No Tag?

If a photo of former president Bush hadn’t been splashed across television screens all night long, I probably wouldn’t have thought twice about him going fishing with George Wood and Andy Mill and catching a 100-plus-pound tarpon. But an editorial comment that escaped the Web production team for makes the story a little saltier. It says: “Note to Editor/Producers: To avoid any confusion, it is important to stress that the boat had a legal harvest tag and that the fish was released.” The boat had a legal harvest tag, but in the picture there is only a rope passed through the mouth and gills of the fish. What’s the big deal? Well, earlier this year Florida FWC officers made it fairly clear to Gold Cup tournament organizers that in order to comply with the state’s tarpon tag law, as soon as a fish was reduced to “possession,” a $50 tag must be affixed to the lower jaw. OK, it is possible that we can’t see the tag in the Bush photo, and one has to wonder about the efficacy and correctness of such a strict interpretation of tag rules anyway. But is it permissible for former presidents can handle fish differently, as long as the media manages the spin correctly? (Note: After this post was written, we did get confirmation that a tag was in place. See comments.) Or should FWC rethink making presidents and tournament anglers punch holes in tarpon jaws, which some think interferes with tarpon’s ability to capture food?

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  • Interesting. Hard to believe that roping the jaw of a Tarpon qualifies in ANY case as ethical treatment of a fish that will be released.
    Why not just lip a trout?

  • Sandy Moret

    I call “bullXXXX” on whoever started this misinformation without proper research. I had dinner with Andy Mill & President Bush the evening he caught the fish. Andy had additional photographs that clearly showed President Bush and Captain George Wood with the tag properly placed in the fish as required by current interpretations of the law. For someone with no verified information to imply otherwise without confirmation is irresponsible and degrading to some sincerely conservation minded anglers and guides.
    Sandy Moret
    Sandy Moret

  • No one I know questions George Wood’s or Andy Mill’s commitment to tarpon conservation. My post was meant to point out that the media seemed intent on using a photo of the president with a tarpon taken out of the water to make a national story, even while the question of how well the rules are written and enforced wasn’t touched on, except as an internal memo of sorts. Obviously they were aware that this was an important part of the story — no doubt thanks to George and Andy — but except in this apparently unintended publication of “remarks,” no one mentioned it. Distributing a photo showing the tag in place would have prevented any kind of rumor-mongering and sent a message about tarpon conservation. Not showing it and only saying something about “having a tag in the boat” seems to conflict directly with what FWC says is legal. I think it’s worth asking the question of why it got published the way it did and whether FWC doesn’t need to step up and clarify or amend their rules.

  • Jason Merenda

    I think FWC needs to rethink their position on affixing a tag for fish that are going to be released. Punching another hole in the fish is a bad idea. It is not a stretch to imagine that the people that pointed out that the tarpon did not have a tag affixed were intentionally try to brew up some sort of controversy.

  • On-The-Fly

    Do the tournament anglers need one tag, or multiple tags? If you tag a fish, measure it, cut your tag off and release the fish, can you use the tag again, or do you need a new tag for every fish?

  • Marshall Cutchin

    As I understand it, you need a different tag for each fish that is taken into “possession,” so if you are a tournament angler, you will need one tag for each fish you plan to measure. Tags are only usable once, since they are essentially zip-ties and once cut are useless.