DANIA BEACH, Fla., U.S.A. — (May 17, 2006) — The catch-and-release of a 385 lb lemon shark on fly has officially been approved as a world record by the International Game Fish Association (IGFA).
It also becomes the heaviest documented fish caught on fly tippet.
IGFA world records coordinator Rebecca Reynolds made the official announcement that Dr. Martin Arostegui, Coral Gables, Florida, USA had caught the heaviest fish ever documented on fly beating out a nearly 40 year old record.
A little background on Arostegui; last year the retired Miami-area physician received a lifetime achievement award from the IGFA for over 100 world record catches through 2004 and this past March took home a grand slam of honors at the IGFA World Record Achievement Awards ceremony for the most world records in 2005 in saltwater, freshwater and on fly.
None of his other catches has ever been this heavy on any tackle, said Arostegui.
Continuing his relentless pace for world records with extensive travel, planning, preparation and review of the IGFA World Record Games Fishes annual and continuously updated IGFA web site of world records, Arostegui’s original plans were to catch and release a tiger shark on 20 lb tippet to beat the current 11-year old record of 220 lbs.
Guided by Capt. Ralph Delph, Key West, Fla., and fishing near the Marquesas Keys west of Key West, Florida, Arostegui used the scent line of a filleted barracuda to entice sharks onto the flats.
Instead of a tiger, a lemon shark smelled the scent so Arostegui switched to another fly rod with 12 lb tippet and a bright orange seven-inch long feathered fly streamer in an attempt to break another record he held. Like the tiger shark the lemon shark is a member of the whaler shark (carcharhinidae) family and once hooked Arostegui battled the fish for over an hour.
As he muscled the fish next to the boat, Arostegui said the toothy shark attacked the hull of Delph’s 29 ft. Contender.
“When it opened its huge mouth, I said to myself this shark could eat half of me in one bite,” joked the diminutive former emergency room doctor who stands 5 ft. tall and weighs 125 lbs.
Next in a carefully orchestrated technique that Arostegui and Delph have used before, Delph gaffed the shark in the soft, fleshy part of its tail as Arostegui dropped the fly rod and lassoed the fish in front of the tail with a cleated rope.
After a breather they enlisted the help of another flats angler and guide fishing nearby. The four men were able to wrestle the shark, while controlling its dangerous head, through the transom door into a specially designed eight foot long, three foot deep aerated, hydraulic live well. After an hour long ride back to Key West the pair, with the help of Delph’s son Mike who is also a noted Keys guide, finished documenting the catch. For that Arostegui used a portable briefcase-sized ScaleMaster II from International Weighing Systems along with a special canvas sling to cradle the fish.
“Since I bought the scale in the Rolex/IGFA Offshore Championship tournament auction last year in Mexico, I’ve used it for documenting six other IGFA certified records, but nothing this heavy.” Minus the weight of the ropes and cradle the lemon shark weighed 385 lbs (174.63 kg).
The avid angler who has practiced catch and release on over 90% of his fish catches slid the shark into the water of a nearby basin and while resuscitating it — himself in the water — measured the shark for its girth (49″) and length (90″) plus took photos.
Later, as he looked at the photos of himself and Mike Delph standing in the water before releasing the giant fish which an hour before had been biting the boat, Arostegui chuckled and said, “I don’t recommend getting this close to a lemon shark, especially in his environment.”
At the IGFA headquarters after preliminary line testing and documentation review, Ms. Reynolds said the 12 lb tippet over tested at 13 lbs so Arostegui’s fish was entered in the 16 lb tippet line class.
The previous record for heaviest fish on fly has been on the IGFA record books since March 15, 1967 for a 356 lb 0 oz (161.48 kg) goliath grouper (jew fish) caught by Bart Froth in Islamorada, Fla., USA, on 12 lb tippet.
Arostegui also beat his own 257 lb 0 oz IGFA mark for a lemon shark that he recorded two years ago and also the heaviest shark on fly beating out a 353 lb. hammerhead shark caught two years ago, also in the waters near Key West, by Rick Gunion.
Founded in 1939 the International Game Fish Association is a not-for-profit organization committed to the conservation of game fish and promotion of responsible, ethical angling practices through science, education, rule making and record keeping.
IGFA members are located in over 125 countries and territories. The IGFA welcomes visitors to its 60,000-square-foot interactive Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum in Dania Beach, Florida. The phone number at the IGFA is 954-927-2628 and e-mail is _[email protected]. The web site is www.igfa.org.
(_Photo caption) — Capt. Mike Delph, left, Key West, Fla., USA and Dr. Martin Arostegui, right, of Coral Gables, Fla., hold a 385-pound lemon shark before releasing it back in Florida Bay waters. The International Game Fish Association certified the catch as a world record, Tuesday, May 16, 2006 saying it is also the largest documented fish caught on fly tackle replacing a 356 lb. goliath grouper (jew fish) caught in 1967. Arostegui, a retired doctor who holds more than 100 IGFA world fishing records caught the huge, toothy shark in early March near the Marquesas Keys, west of Key West, Fla. He and Capt. Ralph Delph went through elaborate methods to keep the fish alive to be weighed on certified scales, documented and released alive.
(Photo provided by the IGFA via Johnson Communications, Scottsdale, Ariz.)