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Now, here’s a weird fish story. It was sent to us by subscriber Albert J. Gillen, who witnessed the events described herein this past spring near Key Largo, Florida, while fly fishing for tarpon with guide Pat Cowan (*). Seems Gillen cast into a pod of five or six tarpon moving in strange circles, and when he hooked up, the pod just continued to swim – no jumps, no spooking. As the pod approached the boat, Gillen and Cowan were able to make out five fish; they estimated one to weigh between 175 and 200 pounds, and the others to weigh only 50 to 60 pounds.

They noticed that all four of the smaller fish were swimming around the larger fish, and then saw that the large fish seemed to be injured, with the rear half of the dorsal fin loose and flapping like a sail, and the lower portion of the tail completely missing. As the pod got to within about 15 feet of the skiff, one of the smaller fish suddenly came out from under the large fish. Gillen says he and Cowan could clearly see that this smaller fish was foul hooked with the fly in the rear part of its dorsal fin. As the pod continued to swim slowly away – all five fish close together, without spooking even though they obviously saw the boat – Gillen says he decided to break his leader and release the fish.

What could have caused this erratic behavior? Were the smaller tarpon supporting the larger one the way wolves and even elephants are known to do when one of their kind is hurt? Or was something else going on among the participants in this piscatorial drama? Has anyone else ever seen such a thing? Hmmm….

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