A new online tool created by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will help anglers find out where tarpon have been seen or caught in Texas waters, and will help biologists learn more about the “silver king’s” distribution and movements.
“Tarpon are extreme game fish highly sought after by sport anglers,” said TPWD Coastal Fisheries Outreach Specialist Art Morris, who first proposed the new tool. “This application should not only help those looking to target tarpon but help us understand this charismatic and hard-to-study species.”
Members of the TPWD GIS Lab’s Resource Information System (RIS) team spent nearly two years building the application.
Texas was once an international destination for anglers seeking to land a trophy tarpon. U.S. presidents, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, have successfully landed the species in Texas waters, and Port Aransas, Texas, was once named for the species.
Today’s Texas tarpon fishery centers on Gulf passes and nearshore waters, primarily spring through fall, but angler reports and TPWD gill net sampling indicates the fish can be found at scattered locations throughout the state’s bays and estuaries.
While the reasons are not entirely known, it is generally accepted that the current abundance of the species in Texas waters is nowhere near its historical highs.
“This application will allow the public to assist biologists track current tarpon use of Texas waters to better understand and manage the species.” said Morris.
The new web application allows TPWD staff and anglers and researchers to query the number and type of tarpon observations using dates, radius from a point based on latitude and longitude, bay name or coastal area. The application features GoogleTM Maps, allowing for satellite-based imagery and the ability to zoom in, zoom out and pan to locations of interest.
The Membership Security Module offers a password protected interface for editing the database allowing authorized users to report their observations via the Internet. This will allow for other reportable data such as information about observation time of year, temperature at location, and tarpon length and weight (if known).
Close to 300 observations already are loaded into the application, primarily from TPWD records and a few early volunteers. The web application is the first of its kind for the Gulf of Mexico.
“If successful, the program could be expanded to include other states and Mexico as well as other, less common species such as snook or large sharks,” said Morris. “Ultimately, the program will help researchers and anglers alike in understanding this elusive game fish.”