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Big Catches – 1920-60

Above: President Franklin D. Roosevelt reels in a Tarpon off Port Aransas in 1937–arguably one of Texas’s most famous fishing trips.

My research has focused on terrestrial mammals, but I’ve come across quite a few fishing photos along the way. I wanted to share some that made an impact on me because Texas marine life suffered the same exploitation that the creatures on the land faced.

No Catch Limits

In the early to mid-20th century, some catches looked much different than today. It would be appalling to catch 100 trout in an afternoon, and it’s been decades since a boatload of tarpon has landed at port. Fortunately, catch limits, restrictions on methods and breeding programs have allowed some species to recover. However, other once-abundant species like tarpon are still only a fraction of what they once were.

104 sand and speckled trout caught in 3 hours, 1920 – The Portal to Texas History
Ten tarpon caught off of Port Arthur, 1939 – The Portal to Texas History
Lloyd Smith with an alligator gar catch from a fishing tournament – Texas Game and Fish Magazine, December 1958

Oversized Catches

Some of these photos are really painful for me to look at. It’s blatantly wasteful to kill such old fish for sport. Think about what they have lived through. And if you’re more focused on harvest, think about how many offspring they could have had.

Giant manta ray caught near Port Isabel – Texas Fish and Game Magazine, October 1946
Bob James and Delos Finch in Port Aransas with a spearfishing record grouper (7’7″ 472lbs) – Texas Fish and Game Magazine, July 1957
Hugh Mallet with an 8-foot alligator gar he caught in the Rio Grande – Texas Game and Fish Magazine, January 1957
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