Did you know that tarpon can live 80 years or more? That means most of us who fish for tarpon have a chance of hooking one that’s older than we are.
Or how about this? In the early 1600s Izaak Walton described a certain fish as “The Queen of Rivers… a stately, good and very subtle fish.” What species? The common carp, which believe it or not, is the most pursued, most prized “game fish” worldwide to this day. Of course, we Americans have myriad wonderful species to chase. Maybe that’s why all but the “Compleat Anglers” among us consider carp “trash fish.”
Of course there are other non-native species in American waters that are now revered. The brown trout? An immigrant. Native to Europe, and introduced into Michigan rivers in the 1870s, just as many of our ancestors were also making their ways to this country. It’s hard to imagine the fly fishing world without brown trout these days, isn’t it?
Yet as much as many of us love trout, they aren’t the speediest fish by any stretch. The average trout might be capable of bursts of nine miles per hour. The bonefish, on the other hand, can swim over 25 miles an hour. Then again, the mako shark can swim upwards of 60 miles an hour, and also jump twice its body length above the water surface. Imagine tying a fishing line to an NFL wide receiver, and having him run down the football field. Now imagine that the mako is three times faster than the NFL player, and when it reaches the end zone, it is capable of jumping over the goal post.
Speaking of big, powerful fish, the International Game Fish Association world record all-tackle blue marlin was caught by Jay de Beaubien in 1982 off of Kona, Hawaii, weighing 1,376 pounds. Now, for perspective, realize that the average quarter horse weighs between 1,100 and 1,200 pounds. I don’t know about you, but I think that was an on-the-water rodeo I wish I’d have seen.
And while we’re on the topic of records, in 2009, Manabu Kurita of Japan caught a world record largemouth bass that weighed 22 pounds, 4 ounces… which tied the previous world record set in Georgia by George Perry, 77 years earlier. By contrast, the oldest NFL record, for most points in a game (40), was set by Ernie Nevers of the Chicago Cardinals versus the Chicago Bears in 1929, just over 72 years ago. When you consider how many people fish, and how relatively few earn the right to play in the NFL, that fishing record is pretty impressive. And it still hasn’t been “broken.”
All of which is to reinforce what most of us already know, even if we do overlook some of the trivial details… fishing is one of the most interesting, challenging, and rewarding sports of all time.
Kirk Deeter is an editor-at-large with Field & Stream magazine, and the editor-in-chief of Angling Trade. He is the co-author of four books, most recently the Little Red Book of Fly Fishing.