Tarpon Heaven

Forget those far-off destinations. The Georgia coast is producing big numbers and record-class tarpon.

Daryl Kirby | September 25, 2013

A giant tarpon brought boatside and released on Sept. 4 is the latest exclamation point on fantastic tarpon fishing off the Georgia coast.

Jeff Pierce, of Atlanta, was fishing with Capt. Greg Hildreth when he caught and released what certainly would have been a new Georgia state record. However, like with almost every big tarpon caught these days, Jeff took only a few photos and a fish story back to shore after releasing the tarpon.

Based on a formula using length and girth measurements, the fish would weigh about 188 pounds, which is 27 pounds more than the Georgia state record. Getting a certified weight and the official record would require killing the tarpon. Capt. Hildreth said Jeff’s fish isn’t the first record-caliber tarpon caught and released off the Georgia coast, but it’s one of the biggest.

“Thanks to Jeff for letting this old girl swim free,” Capt. Hildreth said.

Jeff and a friend fished for two days, and he was impressed with the number of fish off the beaches.

“I’ve fished Boca Grande (near Tampa) and caught a couple of 80- to 90-lb. fish, but this was very eye-opening. We were surprised at the number of tarpon just a couple hundred feet off the beach. We saw 35 to 40 fish in two days,” Jeff said. “We caught three. The other two were 75 and 85 pounds. Dang nice fish.”

Jeff’s record-class tarpon was landed with an Ugly Stick Custom 30-60 class rod and a Penn Squall reel loaded with 65-lb. Spiderwire Invisi-Braid and a Mustad 14/0 circle hook. They fished live bait, anchoring in front of big pods of pogies near the mouth of the Altamaha River.

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