Is It OK To Kill Fish For The Record Book?

Notice I could have headed this post with the line, Woman Catches New World Record Tarpon. But I think the point here is the fish died. And for what? A name in the record book. Certainly that lady isn’t going to pickle this oversized herring. It is a life lost and gone, one tarpon out of the breeding pool. I’m against killing fish for records purposes and I wonder if you are, too. What do you think? It ok to kill a fish if an angler thinks it’s a potential record? Eager to hear your replies. Read the story below.


ISLAMORADA, Florida Keys – The International Game Fish Association has certfied a Florida Keys female angler’s world-record catch of a 152.8-pound tarpon on 16-pound-test fly tippet.

Heidi Nute of Islamorada caught the huge silver king in Everglades National Park Feb. 8. The new world record dwarfs a catch that Islamorada’s Diana Rudolph achieved in March 2005. That fish, caught in Florida Bay, weighed 135.31 pounds, according to IGFA records.

Nute’s fish is the largest IGFA-certified tarpon ever caught on fly by a female, according to Jack Vitek, who coordinates world records for the association.

Nute was fishing with her husband, fellow fly angler Paul Nute, and Islamorada Captain Tim Mahaffey when the trip unfolded into angling history. Purposely seeking a world record, Nute had purchased a special Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission tag that entitles an angler to legally harvest one tarpon per year for world-record consideration.

That day the trio hooked six tarpon in the shallows, but it was the last and largest that devoured Nute’s fly.

After 16 jumps and 65 minutes, Mahaffey gaffed the tarpon, using a historic kill gaff that late legendary angler Billy Pate used to boat all his record-setting tarpon and marlin. The Nutes had successfully bid on the item during an auction of Pate’s memorabilia.

“It is just great to have that piece of history used to get this fish,” Heidi Nute said.

Amazingly, the feat comes just seven years after Nute’s graduation from Sandy Moret’s fly-fishing school in Islamorada. Prior experience only included fishing with her father in the small streams of upstate New York’s Catskill Mountains where she’d used light spinning rods for small trout.

Heidi Nute also has competed in several Keys tournaments. She earned back-to-back victories alongside Captain Rob Fordyce in the 2012 and 2013 Ladies Invitational Tarpon Fly tournaments, and took grand champion angler titles at the 2009, 2010 and 2013 Women’s Fall Fly Classic.

“I attribute 100 percent of my success to the caliber of Keys fishing guides and their coaching,” said Nute, who moved with her husband from Miami to Islamorada in 2011. “Fishing with the very best has done a lot to shorten the learning curve.”

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23 Responses to Is It OK To Kill Fish For The Record Book?

  1. Jeremy says:

    I’d have to agree with you that killing a specimen like this just so you can have your name in a record book is sad. To be frank there is only a tiny, fraction of a fraction of a percent of people on the planet that give a shit about a world record fish so who are you doing this for? If you catch the fish of a lifetime and get some nice pictures and more importantly the memories what does killing it add to that experience? For me, it would detract from it as I’d have to acknowledge that the experience wasn’t enough and in order to stroke my ego in front of the 1000 people who give a shit about this I killed a majestic animal. If you were going to eat it that would be different in my opinion but killing it just to have this picture and your name in a record book is pathetic. It kind of feels like the guy who isn’t content dating the perfect 10, he’s only happy if he’s seen by his friends with her….

  2. Garrett says:

    Well they bought a tag specifically for this purpose. Its hard to argue with it. It is a world record. They sell tags for bull elk, bison, lions, bears, and no one says shit about that? Dont sell the tags then….Everyone gets a big pat on the back for shooting a record elk. Shes a hell of a fisherwoman.

    • Greg Thomas says:

      We eat elk, lions, bison and bear. We eat salmon and flounder and halibut and hatchery-reaised steelhead, too. We don’t eat tarpon. I know the killing of this fish was legal and I’m not trying to say this gal isn’t a great fisherwomen, by any means. What I’m saying is that I think killing a great creature that you aren’t going to utilize, especially in this day and age of environmental knowledge, just to see your name in the record book . . . well, personally, I think it kind of sucks. If I’d caught that fish, I’d have released it. Again, I’m not trying to bash a women who did nothing illegal, I’m just opening a discussion to point out the merits or detractions of either possibility. I like fish that swim in the water, not on walls. But that’s just one opinion.

    • D-Summ says:

      Kinda hard to release big game after an animal is shot. By all means she should have released that fish.

    • Joe Colton says:

      I agree 100 % I catch a lot of good trout every year here in Wyo and put 99% of them back she is one hell of a Fly Gal…………give credit where credit is due…………..

      • Greg Thomas says:

        It’s never been a question about this lady. It’s a question of whether the fish should have been released. It’s not an attack on her. Maybe she is a good angler, maybe not. I don’t know. I don’t know her. I do believe, however, that fish should have gone back in the water after measurements were taken. Replicas look awfully good on the walls these days.

  3. Tobin says:

    If you ain’t gonna eat it, release it (or don’t shoot it either – including gophers)!!

    • Greg Thomas says:

      I shot a bunch of ground squirrels on easter sunday one year in my youth and I’ve n ever really gotten over that one. Today I tell my girls, if you shoot it you eat. So, when one of my daughters saw a squirrel last year and wanted to shoot it with her bb gun she said, “Dad, if I kill this squirrel will you make squirrel stew?” I answered, “Damn right we’ll have squirrel stew.” Thankfully she missed the shot.

  4. Jack Dmitri says:

    So let me get this straight, you all are suggesting that what might become one of your 365 dinners that year somehow makes the act of killing the fish noble and sanctified. Here, the fish is a substitute for a hot dog and that’s enough to make all of these whiners OK with something that they would otherwise relish griping about in social media environments on the web.

    And on the other hand, getting a WORLD RECORD — a once in a lifetime achievement for a tiny,tiny handful of people who do so at great expense, hiring guides, etc. pumping significantly more $$ into the angling economy (at least I know that he lady here who caught this fish does) than the one week a year armchair peanut gallery angler who spends more time bitching about perceived slights like this in the forums than he does on the water.

    This is a blood sport people — grow some nuts!

    • Greg Thomas says:

      I’m not sure that everyone is saying they are noble and sanctified. I think most people quietly go about their sport and when they catch a great fish or drop a big bull elk, etc., they share the experience with their friends.
      Regarding the pumping of a lot of money into the economy, we all do that. Most of us do hire guides, especially in the saltwater game. I don’t really see the validity of your argument here, but would encourage you to pursue it further if you have the time and inclination.

  5. Tobin says:

    Lot’s of good squirrel recipes in old Gray’s SJ’s!! You need to whack a few of the eastern reds in Missoula….

  6. Bulltrout01 says:

    It is a huge moral stand off to say the least I am sure this tarpon will be mounted and on display somewhere to help immortalize this great fish. So, it was killed for more than just the scale. We see and hear of people take great fish from all over the world. A few years ago guide caught a 34 inch (If I remember right) brown on the Yellowstone . A big one to say the least. It sparked a huge controversy. As I sat back and read comments from both sides and thought about all the points being brought out. The biggest thing people kept saying is they thought it should be released to keep on putting its gene pool back into the system. When fish and I mean any species get to the record breaking size. Do we really think they are procreating. I would guess no they have now long since past that point in their life cycle. So their genes are already in the pool for generations to come. Also there is a good chance these fish have a mutated gene and are infertile as well. Like we see in triploid fish that grow to enormous sizes. Also when fish get to record breaking size how much life is really left in the fish. I am no biologist and would be curious to know. I would lay a bet that the fish is well past its midlife and its days are few. I am talking in general with all fish and species. I am sure there are a few exceptions. My view point is this. To kill a fish with or without any guarantee your name will be in the books is ridiculous! It is vain and egotistical. To kill a fish to immortalize the day, the feelings, the whole experience seams a little more palatable to me. You can take pictures. You can take measurements and get a plaster cast replica. This can achieve the same thing to some level I guess. Pictures never really do the fish justice. Nor do the plaster casts the don’t even come close to the actual dimensions of the fish. They just replicate the colors and markings of that particular fish. When and if the day comes that I ever get to a record breaking fish no one will ever know about it because it is not for ink. It will be killed and beautifully mounted with a skin mount on my wall to remember the that great day and others like it. To bring back to life everything that took place that day. To be honored well past its natural life. Till the end of my life and maybe beyond.

  7. Greg Thomas says:

    Good comments. I’m still of the opinion that you don’t have to kill a fish to bring back the great memories, but I do know others who love the true skin mount for the same reasons that I wouldn’t get a deer or elk mounted if I couldn’t use the actual hair from that animal and had to buy someone else’s cape. Hunting and fishing, of course, are very different deals as, again, it’s pretty tough to catch and release something on the hoof or claw.

  8. John McMillan says:

    I was unaware you could kill things in national parks. The only way to get any record is to kill the fish right? Always release, so this can happen….

    • Greg Thomas says:

      Great points. Seriously, I think C&R is the way to go unless you are going to eat the beast and eating the beast is, in a particular case, a good thing for the fishery. I don’t believe in that deal about the genes already being in the pool. That’s great, but so is the opportunity for someone else to have a great experience catching a grand fish. Kill the thing and that opportunity is wiped off the face of the planet. Again, great points.

  9. Jack Dmitri says:

    Greg, what you are suggesting doesn’t make sense if you are also not in favor of killing the fish for the world record. There is nothing about eating a fish that makes the act of killing a fish good for the fishery. Once it is dead it is dead, and it doesn’t matter what happens to it after that — eat, use for world record, ski mount or throw in a ditch somewhere. All of these outcomes will have the same effect on the fishery. To echo my earlier point, I commonly read on these forums that it’s only OK to kill the fish if you eat it. Sorry to say it, but there is nothing special or sanctifying about eating, it’s a mundane thing we do 3x per day. To illustrate it absurdly, if it’s OK to kill to eat then it should be just as OK to kill it to use the scales to wipe yur ass after a mean dump. The act would be no more or less holy than eating, as it’s just applying the fish to the other side of the digestive system during a mundane daily act :)

    The point is, one reason for killing is no better than any other. If one guy can a fish for some reason, he’s hungry, he has open wall space for a mount, or he’s gunning for an IGFA record, it’s all the same thing.

  10. Allen Gideon says:

    I have a skin mount of a 30 inch Rainbow. I have enjoyed him for 33 years. My out look has changed some what since then. Most fish are now released. I do hope this lady will enjoy her fish as much as I have mine.

  11. JNave says:

    I see no difference between killing a huge tarpon in Florida and killing a huge brown trout in Montana. Once its dead its dead regardless of whether you are having it mounted or having it for dinner. Personally I enjoy the satisfaction of watching them swim away, and with the increased pressure on all fish species from the many, many more anglers these days in combination with habitat degradation, we should let them all go.

    • Greg Thomas says:

      I’d say that’s a little shortsighted and too simplistic. The whole point of the tarpon story was to open up a discussion about keeping fish, that you aren’t going to utilize, just so you can have your name in a record book. IF you are saying it’s ok to kill a trophy tarpon so you can show it off to your friends and get your name in the record book and then throw it in a trashcan or off a dock, you are saying it’s ok to kill a bull elk, pitch it in the back of your truck, show it off to your friends, cut off the antlers to put on the wall, and then throw the animal into the local landfill. To me there’s no difference between the two actions. If you see it differently I think it would be interesting to know why. Second thing: I don’t know that all fish should be caught and released. I’ve been interviewing biologists for 20 years and have, occasionally, heard about their management nightmares where they could really boost a fishery and the size of its average fish, if only they could convince fly fishers to take some of the trout out of a system. This has happened on the Bighhorn, the Missouri, the Beaverhead, etc. It’s a prevalent issue on high lakes. So C&R isn’t always cut and dry. About the big brown on Memorial Day Weekend. I probably wouldn’t have kept that fish but I’m not holding any grudge against a friend who did, a guy who releases thousands of trout a year. Unlike that trophy tarpon, which probably ended up in a garbage bin, that brown trout fed a bunch of people on a great weekend, something that none of them will soon forget. The difference: that tarpon and that brown trout were taken legally. The brown trout was utilized, the tarpon was wasted. I think there’s a pretty clear distinction there. Let me know if this changes your perspective all all. Thanks for the discussion.

  12. Jack Dmitri says:

    This tarpon did not end up in the garbage can.

    It’s carcass is currently sitting in a box full of flesh eating beetles which are cleaning it down to a pristine, sort of museum-quality skeleton, which is having a display case built for it. This will be in the angler’s home who caught it, but will be loaned out periodically to places where it can be viewed by lots of people. This will be more or less of a one-of-a-kind thing. Not many people will have ever seen such a thing, as this fish’s dimensions were 73″ x 42″.

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