On August 13, at approximately 3:00 a.m., a land-based shark angler on the south side of Cape Cod hooked into a trophy-sized tarpon while using cut bluefish for bait. After an intense 25-minute battle, Hans Brings of Mashpee, Massachusetts beached the impressive silver king, took a few photos and videos for proof, and then returned it to the ocean. According a local fisheries biologist, Brings’ catch marks the first widely-reported instance of an angler catching a tarpon in Massachusetts waters in recent memory.
“I have not personally confirmed it yet, but I don’t have any reason to doubt it,” Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries biologist Ben Gahagan tells Field & Stream. “It’s been an odd summer up here. We’re getting a lot of strange tropical catches.”
According to Massachusetts-based fishing blog onthewater.com, Brings was fishing from the beach and had two lines out when the tarpon struck. “The fish went on these long runs that made me think it was a 6-foot-plus brown shark,” he told On The Water. “But then I’d get heavy, dead weight that felt like a ray until the head shakes started.”
The tarpon went on a few more short runs in the wash before he finally managed to pull it into the surf, Brings later told On the Water. “It honestly looked like a giant herring,” he said. “I thought: did I really just catch a tarpon?”
Brings didn’t take any official measurements, but he estimated the tarpon’s length at approximately five to five-and-a-half feet. One video shared by a local news station shows the angler—who is 5 feet, 11 inches tall—lying next to the big tarpon for reference.
Gahagan says that a few days before Brings beached his tarpon, “a decently-sized barracuda was weighed in on Long Island Sound.” And he pointed to reports of local anglers catching such tropical species as sailfish, cubera snapper, and cobia in recent months and years. But in his 13-odd years working as fisheries biologist in Massachusetts, he’d never heard of anyone taking a tarpon until this year.
“It’s totally crazy,” Gahagan says. “But I think when you step back and look at the patterns we’ve been seeing over the past five years, it’s not that surprising. With the warmer temperatures brought on by climate change, the whole northwest Atlantic is undergoing a lot of changes really quickly. We’re going to get these vagrants, these fish that stay with the bait in the warmer water, and they’re finding their way into places they just haven’t really been seen in the past .”