Discovering the World Record Tarpon: A 286lb 9oz Catch by Max Domecq in Guinea-Bissau

The world record Tarpon is 286 lb 9 oz. It was caught by Max Domecq using a live mullet on an 80 lb line in Rubane, Guinea-Bissau.

Rubane in Guinea Bissau is known for its giant tarpon and other huge tarpon of similar size have been caught along the West Coast of Africa too from Gabon to Congo and Sierra Leone.

What’s The Story Behind This Record Tarpon?

The world record was caught by Max Domecq when he was being guided by Captain Patrick Sebile on the 20-Mar-2003. The giant fish ate a live mullet while the anglers were live baiting a little bit offshore of Rubane.

Story Behind This Record Tarpon
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Once hooked it took more than an hour, 64 minutes to be exact to land. The anglers were using an 80 lb test line on what looks like from the picture, a Penn Star Drag trolling reel and trolling rod.

The measurements of this world record catch are quite mind-blowing and this massive tarpon had a length of 90 inches, 7.5 feet, and a girth of 50 inches. When you see the picture of the world record being officially weighed you can see just how huge this catch is.

About Tarpon

Tarpon, aka the silver king, can be found in the warm subtropical and tropical waters of the Atlantic Ocean and their range tends to stay around the Caribbean and the West Coast of Africa.

Tarpon can live inshore or offshore as they follow food sources and they have a unique ability to gulp air by rolling which allows them to live in brackish water and stagnant places with close to zero oxygen in the water.

Tarpon take a long time to grow and generally don’t reach sexual maturity for six or seven years and they are usually around 4 feet long at this point. If you catch a big tarpon, think about how old the fish is before you release it.

Although tarpon are thought to only be an Atlantic species, they are starting to show up in the Pacific, particularly in Colombia and Panama, around the Panama canal. They are using the Panama canal to move from the Atlantic into the Pacific ocean.

Where Else Have Record Tarpon Been Caught?

Bahia Solano, Columbia

What could have been the biggest tarpon ever caught that didn’t make it into the IGFA record book was hooked on conventional tackle in Bahia Solano, Columbia, South America.

This massive fish ate a mullet while the four anglers were fishing for roosterfish on the Pacific coast of Colombia. After the tarpon hit, it took them nearly two hours to land the fish and two other anglers also fought the big tarpon to get it to the boat.

Once at the boat, it took four grown men to lift what could be the biggest tarpon ever caught into the boat for measurements. The measurements are one for the records as this fish was 87 inches in length and with a 54-inch girth.

If you put these measurements into the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust tarpon calculator you end up with the 312-pound tarpon. If the calculator is correct this would have been the largest tarpon ever caught on rod and line but it would never have counted as the world record.

To qualify for world records, only one angler is allowed to fight the fish and in this case, three anglers fought it.

The anglers who made this amazing catch included Josh Jorgensen, Davis Bennett, Dr. Robert Borrego of Palm Beach, Florida, and outfitter Alberto Meija of Fish Colombia

Florida, USA

If there is anywhere on the planet that can be called the tarpon capital of the world it has to be the state of Flordia. There are so many Florida records set for tarpon and the Florida state record is held by angler Gus Bell.

Gus was fishing out of Key West in 1975 using conventional tackle when he hooked and landed a 243-pound tarpon on a 20-pound line. He was out with fishing guide Captain Bob West who is a bit of a legend, having guided two other anglers into state records that have now been beaten.

florida USA

Angler George Hogan, Jr. is a bit of a legend when it comes to landing some of the largest tarpon around on light line with conventional tackle. He holds the records for the biggest tarpon caught on 2 lb, 4 lb, and 6 lb line with tarpon weighing 106 pounds, 128 lb 8 oz, and 139 lb 14 oz.

Catching a 106-pound tarpon on 2 lb line is quite an amazing achievement, let alone doing it again on a 4 and 6-pound line with bigger fish.

Every single tippet class world record on the fly for tarpon was caught in Florida and this speaks volumes to the guides in Florida and the anglers pulling on the fish too. The biggest tarpon record on the fly is a 202 lb 8 oz tarpon landed by angler James Holland, Jr. on a 20 lb class tippet.

Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela

Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela is world-renowned for its gigantic tarpon and when fishing there, the possibility to catch a record is high. It is also thought that it is these record fish that are moving through the Panama Canal and hence why you can now catch a record fish in Colombia.

The one record fish that stands out which was caught in Lake Maracaibo is the 283-pound tarpon caught by angler Mario Salazar on conventional tackle using a 30 lb line on conventional tackle. The record fish was caught way back in 1956 but there are still monster fish waiting to be caught there.


While there are no records for tarpon set in Nicaragua there are definitely some record fish swimming around on Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast.

The was a possible record tarpon that was released after being caught in the Rio Indio. The tarpon measured 110 inches long and was 48 inches in girth. If you compare these measurements to the 90-inch world record it blows it out of the water.

Unfortunately, the angler who landed it had no way to get it to the official scale but it certainly is a sign that there are world record tarpons swimming around the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua.

See the IGFA Record here.

Photo of author

Jamie Melvin

Growing up fly fishing on trout streams in Kenya and the UK, Jamie has traveled the world in search of fly fishing nirvana. From his time managing bonefish lodges in the Bahamas and running fishing safaris in East Africa, all the way to guiding on the flats of Seychelles, there aren't many species or environments he hasn't experienced firsthand.

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