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Fish Tale: FWC Makes Tarpon Bust In Keys

From left, FWC Lt. Roy Payne and Officers John Hettel, Matt Rubenstein and Jose Lopez with the remains of a tarpon retrieved from a fish transport truck on Stock Island.

Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission officers arrested a Stock Island man Wednesday after retrieving the remains of a large tarpon from a transport truck at the dock.

FWC got a call about a large tarpon being harvested at a commercial dock at Fisherman's Fish House on Stock Island, according to a press release from FWC.

They found five fishermen who told them they only had yellowtail snapper on the boat, but the officers also saw several tarpon scales on the vessel, according to the press release.

An FWC officer went into the water with mask and fins and "quickly discovered under the vessel a large pile of fish guts," according to the release. They kept searching the boat and the truck that was there to pick up the catch.

Eventually they found a large tarpon carcass, under ice at the bottom of the truck's cooler, according to the release.

The boat's captain, 29-year-old Itiel Hernandez Garcia, was arrested on four misdemeanor charges of violating Florida's fishing rules.

Tarpon, a prized sportfish, are only catch-and-release except for specifically pursuing a gamefish record — which requires a special tag.

Nancy Klingener covers the Florida Keys for WLRN. Since moving to South Florida in 1989, she has worked for the Miami Herald, Solares Hill newspaper and the Monroe County Public Library.