Fly Life Magazine

Don’t blame “them,” it’s been us all along

Big Fish Stories Getting Littler

by Robert Krulwich / National Public Radio 

They came, they fished, then snap! They posed. Right in front of their Big Catch — and thereby hangs a tale.

In 1956, the fish on the”Hanging Board” loom larger than the people. Check out the guy in the back, standing on the extreme right, next to an even bigger giant. Image Key West’s Monroe County Library.

Charter companies have been taking these photos for at least 50 years now. In some cases, they’ve operated from the same dock, fished in the same waters and returned to the same Hanging Board for all that time — which is why, when a grad student working on her doctoral thesis found a thick stack of these photos in Key West’s Monroe County Library, she got very excited. Loren McClenachan figured she could use this parade of biggies to compare fish over time.

How much smaller?

Adjusting for time of year, and after checking and measuring 1,275 different trophy fish, she found that in the 1950s, the biggest fish in the photos were typically over 6 feet — sometimes 6-feet 5-inches long. By the time we get to 2007, when Loren bought a ticket on a deep sea day cruise and snapped this picture …

In 2007, the shrinking fish tale continued to play out on the Hanging Board

… the biggest fish were averaging only a foot, or maybe a little over. That’s a staggering change. The biggest fish on display in 2007 was a shark, and sharks, Loren calculated, are now half the size they used to be in the ’50s. As to weight, she figured the average prizewinner dropped from nearly 43.8 pounds to a measly 5 pounds — an 88 percent drop.

Featured image: Two mature tarpon killed only for the joy of killing and a braggart’s boast at the dock – just before the tarpon are thrown into the dock’s trash can. Image from Louisiana Hell Divers YouTube video.)

Read more . . .

In 2007, the “Hanging Board” tells it all. Photo courtesy of Scripps researcher Loren McClenachan.

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