Friday, November 4, 2011

The Silver King

In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt traveled from Washington, D.C. down to the Texas waters of Port Aransas to try his hand at catching a Silver King. The “Silver King” or the Tarpon fish is infamous for its ability to grow to “king” size (the Texas record is 210 pounds, 86 ½ inches). Once caught, these fish are notorious for putting up a fight, jumping in the air, rattling their gills, twisting their massive bodies, and occasionally, even spitting out the offending hook.

Like Roosevelt, Hart Stillwell, a South Texas newspaperman, was also successful in catching a Silver King. Stillwell spent years becoming a skilled Tarpon fisherman. Over the years, Stillwell released most of the Tarpon he caught in order to preserve the sport. Unfortunately, others were not as willing. In the 1970s, Stillwell decided to write a book on tarpon fishing, but the angler pressure, pollution, increased bay water salinity from the damming of rivers, and commercial fishing and shrimping, along with other factors, had just about made the species extinct in Texas.

Though Stillwell passed away before his book could be published, a longtime fisherman and doctoral student at Texas Tech University, Brandon Shuler rediscovered and edited the Stillwell manuscripts. Shuler worked with Texas A&M University Press to get Glory of the Silver King: The Golden Age of Tarpon Fishing published in the spring of 2011. Today, due to conservation efforts and better treatment of the environment, the Silver King once again occupies Texas' coast.