Keys’ Lady Angler Crushes World Record for Tarpon on Fly

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ISLAMORADA, Florida Keys — The International Game Fish Association has certfied a Florida Keys female angler’s world-record catch of a 152.8-pound tarpon on 16-pound-test fly tippet.

Heidi Nute of Islamorada caught the huge silver king in Everglades National Park Feb. 8. The new world record dwarfs a catch that Islamorada’s Diana Rudolph achieved in March 2005. That fish, caught in Florida Bay, weighed 135.31 pounds, according to IGFA records.

Nute’s fish is the largest IGFA-certified tarpon ever caught on fly by a female, according to Jack Vitek, who coordinates world records for the association.

Nute was fishing with her husband, fellow fly angler Paul Nute, and Islamorada Captain Tim Mahaffey when the trip unfolded into angling history. Purposely seeking a world record, Nute had purchased a special Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission tag that entitles an angler to legally harvest one tarpon per year for world-record consideration.

That day the trio hooked six tarpon in the shallows, but it was the last and largest that devoured Nute’s fly.

After 16 jumps and 65 minutes, Mahaffey gaffed the tarpon, using a historic kill gaff that late legendary angler Billy Pate used to boat all his record-setting tarpon and marlin. The Nutes had successfully bid on the item during an auction of Pate’s memorabilia.

“It is just great to have that piece of history used to get this fish,” Heidi Nute said.

Amazingly, the feat comes just seven years after Nute’s graduation from Sandy Moret’s fly-fishing school in Islamorada. Prior experience only included fishing with her father in the small streams of upstate New York’s Catskill Mountains where she’d used light spinning rods for small trout.

Heidi Nute also has competed in several Keys tournaments. She earned back-to-back victories alongside Captain Rob Fordyce in the 2012 and 2013 Ladies Invitational Tarpon Fly tournaments, and took grand champion angler titles at the 2009, 2010 and 2013 Women’s Fall Fly Classic.

“I attribute 100 percent of my success to the caliber of Keys fishing guides and their coaching,” said Nute, who moved with her husband from Miami to Islamorada in 2011. “Fishing with the very best has done a lot to shorten the learning curve.”

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