Fly angler lands enormous shark, but says trying for record not worth killing the fish


Michael Roth with his enormous blacktip shark; photo courtesy Michael Roth

On Monday we posted a story about a Florida fishing guide who traveled to Costa Rica and caught a 60-pound snook, which is nearly three pounds heavier than the existing world record.

Ward Michaels kept the fish and planned to submit details of the catch to the International Game Fish Association for record consideration.

But not every fisherman is into setting world records. Michael Roth is one such angler, and this week he was featured in Southern Fried Science because he chose to let his amazing catch—that of a record-size blacktip shark—go free after it was hoisted for a photo opportunity.

Roth, an attorney in Scranton, Pennsylvania, was fly-fishing in Turks and Caicos, southeast of the Bahamas, and using 20-pound tippet line (heavy fly line used for bigger game). The shark he reeled in was estimated to weigh at least 120 pounds. That's massive for any fly-caught game fish.

The IGFA lists the 20-pound tippet world record as a 77-pound blacktip caught off Key West, Florida, in 2009.

Roth, a lifelong angler, was aware that he probably could have his name in the record book, but that would have required hauling the shark to shore and finding a certified scale—a death sentence for the shark.

So the angler simply released the predator.

"While I would love to be a record holder, the thought of killing this beautiful animal was completely abhorrent to me," Roth told David Shiffman of Southern Fried Science. "I felt so fortunate to have hooked and landed this spectacular fish, and for me all fish, to keep the species healthy is a top priority for me. I always encourage anglers to catch and release."

The IGFA also encourages catch and release, when appropriate, and two years ago launched a length-record program to encourage release after a quick measurement.

Weight records, however, are more prestigious, and all-tackle weight records (heaviest of a species, on any line) are the most prestigious of all.

For the sake of comparison, the all-tackle record blacktip shark is a 270-pound, 9-ounce specimen landed off Kenya in 1984.

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