Rick Whitley and his record bluefin tuna, along with Capt. Joey Birbeck and mates, Dennis Bennett and Josh Goodson, of the vessel “You Never Know.” Photo courtesy of Rick Whitley.
Five new Florida Saltwater Fishing Records were approved in the past year, including an 826-pound, 8-ounce bluefin tuna caught by Rick Whitley off Destin, along with Capt. Joey Birbeck and mates, Dennis Bennett and Josh Goodson, of the vessel “You Never Know.” Whitley’s impressive catch took the vacant bluefin tuna state record slot, filling the final vacancy in the conventional tackle category.
Other record catches approved in the past year include a 4-pound, 8-ounce hardhead catfish caught by Ethan Pillitteri; a 35-pound, 9-ounce almaco jack caught by Lewis Sapp; a 2-pound kingfish (whiting) caught by Raymond A. Hathorn, Jr.; and a 26-pound horse-eye jack caught by Sharon Kartrude Pryel. Saltwater record holders receive a certificate of accomplishment and a prize pack, and beginning this year will be awarded a custom ink fish print to memorialize their catch, courtesy of Fish Print Shop.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) maintains state all-tackle records for the heaviest marine fishes caught in Florida waters, or in federal waters extending directly outward of Florida state waters, for 77 species in both conventional tackle and fly-fishing categories. There are still several vacancies left for anglers to fill in the fly-fishing tackle category.
To qualify for the Florida Saltwater Fishing Records program the catch must be weighed on a certified scale. The angler’s signature on a completed application form must be witnessed by a notary. Photographs of the angler with their catch are required. Species that are difficult to identify must be confirmed by a qualified fisheries biologist. For more information and to view current records, visit CatchaFloridaMemory.com and click on “Programs” and “Florida Saltwater Fishing Records”, or contact AnglerRecognition@MyFWC.com or 850-487-0554.
Florida Saltwater Fishing Records are part of FWC’s Catch a Florida Memory – Saltwater Angler Recognition Programs. Anglers can gain recognition for catching record-sized fish and for participating in the Saltwater Fish Life List, Saltwater Reel Big Fish and Saltwater Grand Slams. Programs recognize anglers for their fishing efforts, while encouraging them to target a diversity of species and strengthening marine fisheries conservation ethics. To learn more and submit catches, visit CatchaFloridaMemory.com.