Deer Park Man Breaks 33-year-old Texas Tarpon Record

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AUSTIN, Texas — A 25-year-old Deer Park man set the pending Texas state record for tarpon when he landed a 210-pound, 11-ounce fish off the Galveston Fishing Pier Wed.

Jeremy Ebert was fishing for “bull reds” when something different – and obviously bigger – picked up his bait.

“We hooked the fish at about 8:30,” Ebert said. “It made one big jump and then smoked off about 300 yards of line real quick. I got a good look about 30 minutes later, and I knew he was big.”

Ebert fought the fish for about 45 minutes, and lifted it from the water with the help of a massive net and more than half-a-dozen other anglers.

“I grew up on that pier. I’ve fished it a lot,” he said. “I saw my dad catch a tarpon off that pier when I was about 11 years old and it hooked me for the rest of my life.”

A self-proclaimed “tarpon junkie,” the record-breaking fish was Ebert’s fifth “Silver King” of the year and only the latest of about two dozen he’s landed in his fishing career.

A change in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s fishing regulations last year dispensed with the $120 trophy tarpon tag and made it legal for an angler to keep one tarpon over 80 inches. The 80-inch minimum length was settled-on as the threshold for a fish that might beat the longstanding state record of 210 pounds.

That fish, an 86.25-inch tarpon, was caught in November of 1973 by Tom Gibson.

“I’ve never killed one, I’ve always taken care of them,” Ebert said of his decision to keep the fish and have it weighed. “We got this fish to the pier and it pretty much rolled-over dead. I wouldn’t have brought one up just to take pictures. If there was a chance of reviving him, even if he was that size, I probably would have let him go.”

Capt. James Plaag of Silver King Adventures has been chasing Gulf coast tarpon for years, and said 2006 has provided as good a tarpon season as any he’s seen.

“This year’s been like old times,” Plaag said. “Our tarpon fishery this year was outstanding. There’s been some big days.”

On one of those days this year, Plaag said, he went 10 for 21 at the mouth of the Brazos River. Translation: he and his clients landed nearly half of the tarpon they jumped. The biggest fish that day was estimated at about 140 pounds.

“You can’t target the big ones,” he noted. “You just hope he gets on there.”

Plaag said that, as much as he would have liked to have set the new record himself, he was happy to see his friend Ebert do it.

“I was proud of Jeremy. He fishes a lot – he deserved it,” Plaag said. “The average guy, if he hooked that fish, he ain’t gonna catch it. Records are made to be broke, and it just gives me something else to fish for.”

“This is a shocker here. If there’s one state record I want, this is it,” Ebert said. “All my friends drove down in the middle of the night to see it. It was definitely the best fish I’ve caught.”

Ebert donated the fish to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. TPWD biologists have taken DNA samples and also will age and sex the fish before it is displayed on an “ice table” at the annual TPWD Expo in Austin Oct. 7-8.