THE OUTDOORS : Outdoor Notes : Southland Angler Is Hooked on Tarpon in the Florida Keys

Arnold Gold is one of those individuals who pauses occasionally to wonder which is really hooked, the fish or the fisherman.

Gold, 44, a lawyer from Century City, has found his escape from business litigation briefs 2,400 miles away in the Florida Keys.

“I’ve landed and released marlin up and down the Baja, bluefin tuna off St. John’s, wahoo and the great barracuda around Bimini and yellowtail, yellowfin and albacore out of San Diego since 1961,” Gold said.


But since his recent introduction to it, give him tarpon fishing in the Keys every time.

Tarpon are at the top of the warm-water species scale--from 75 degrees to beyond 100--so West Coast fishermen seldom learn to appreciate them. Gold, though, can’t stop talking about them.

He caught his first four in only three hours one Sunday evening last month. They weighed 115, 130, 85 and 100 pounds. Since the fish were released, he has only the word of skipper Vic Gaspeny for that, but it’s good enough.

“His estimates are rarely off more than 2 or 3 pounds,” Gold said.

Gaspeny, contacted in Florida, said: “I’ve won a few bets over the years.”

Gold fished from Gaspeny’s 17-foot single-charter out of Islamorada. Tarpon are sought in the shallow channels between the Keys, so they left the dock after 5 p.m. and were drift-fishing by 5:30. At 5:40 Gold got his first strike.

Said Gaspeny: “They’re a spectacular fish--incredible leapers, sometimes 15 feet in the air. They shake violently, and they’re strong.”

Gaspeny said that Gold’s flurry was good action, but not uncommon. “I’ve had a couple of trips like that this year,” he said. "(Tarpon) are more consistent in June and July, but you can get red-hot action earlier, as Arnold did.

“The best part is you’re in a small boat, you don’t have to go very far and you’re not out on the ocean getting beat up. If the wind comes up you can slip into a cove. I’d recommend it to anybody over anything.”

But few fishermen try to mount their tarpon trophies.

“They have real oily skin that tends to deteriorate,” Gaspeny said. “Taxidermists make replicas out of fiberglass that look more realistic than a skin mount.”

A 14-pound male steelhead caught in the Nisqually River below Yelm, Wash., swam all the way to Washington state from an island in Alaska, making it the best traveled steelhead ever recorded, according to Washington Wildlife Department officials.

Bill Herzog of Tacoma noticed last month that the wild fish he had caught was tagged with a disk that had a message in English on one side and in Japanese on the other.

He reported his catch to the department. Officials checked the records and found that the fish, which had been hatched in the Nisqually River, had been tagged and released last June by Japanese researchers several hundred miles south of Adak Island in Alaska and more than 2,500 miles off the Washington coast.

This is the first time since tagging operations began in 1956 that a Puget Sound steelhead has been documented that far west, according to Terry Rudnick, Wildlife Department spokesman.

The fish was tagged as part of a research project involving Japan, Canada and the United States.

Utah resident Jack Allshouse, a volunteer hunter education instructor and past Utah hunter education instructor of the year, has been named winner of this year’s national Winchester Award.

The annually recognizes volunteer hunter education instructors who clearly display outstanding leadership and expertise in teaching firearms safety.

Seventy-five hunters, who were chosen by lottery from among 5,900 applicants, will participate in New Hampshire’s first moose hunt since 1901. The 3-day hunt was proposed by Fish and Game officials to thin the herd estimated at about 1,600.

Opponents are contending that the hunt is being allowed simply to satisfy hunters, claiming that moose are so docile that “shooting one is like shooting a parked car.”

But fish and game officials say the animals appear tame on the roadside but are cagey in the woods. They deny that the state was pressured by hunters.

Six states hold annual moose hunts--Alaska, Montana, Idaho, North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. Minnesota has one every other year. Oregon, Colorado and Washington also have allowed moose hunting from time to time.


The San Gabriel Valley Flyfishers will conduct a free beginning fly casting clinic at the Legg Lake-Whittier Narrows Visitors’ Center in El Monte May 25 at 6:30 p.m. For more information call (818) 442-0559. . . . Mountain climbing in the Soviet Union will be the subject of slide shows May 25-27 at 7 p.m. at Recreational Equipment Inc. stores in Carson, Orange and San Dimas. . . . Showtime: The Western Recreation Vehicle Show and Sale, today through Sunday, Long Beach Convention Center & Sports Arena.