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An iconic Keys marina is being plagued by trespassing anglers hunting the tarpon that like to hang around there.
Bud N’ Mary’s posted a video shot Saturday of what appears to be teenage boys fishing on the docks where the flats guides keep their boats. One boy is standing on top of a small tarpon he just caught and rips the hook from its mouth.
He then picks up the fish, which appears lifeless, and tosses is it in the water.
Sara Stanczyk, one of the owners of the mile marker 79 ocean side marina in Islamorada, said the tarpon that live there are valued and protected by the staff and captains., and she equates catching the trusting fish to “hunting at the zoo.”
“We respect the fish. We call them our pets. We enjoy seeing them at the marina,” Stanczyk said. “They feel safe there. They know no one is going to catch them there.”
While this incident was caught on video by a person living on a boat moored outside the marina, Stanczyk said trespassing is a growing problem at Bud N’ Mary’s. Not only are people fishing from the marina’s docks, captains are reporting items going missing from their vessels.
“It’s an ongoing problem,” said Stanczyk.
Unfortunately, while the trespassing is illegal, the boy who likely killed the tarpon probably didn’t break the law. Even though the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission considers tarpon a catch-and-release-olnly fish, with some exceptions with the exception of special tag holders, laws regarding handling tarpon and taking them out of the water only apply to fish 40 inches and over.
The fish in the video looked to be around 12 inches.
What makes tarpon so fun for sportfishing anglers to catch is also what makes knowing how to properly handle them and release them so important.
The fish fight until exhaustion, making an exhilarating experience for anglers. But once landed, the FWC urges anglers to de-hook them in the water, keeping the gills and head in the water as much as possible.. Pulling tarpon, especially large tarpon, from the water onto a boat or dock can kill them, according to the FWC..
Stanczyk has two messages for the teens seen in the video.
“Respect the fish. Respect the marina.”