Presidential Tarpon: What, No Tag?

April 22, 2008 By: Marshall Cutchin

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?