CAPE CORAL, Fla. - They're called the "silver kings," and we found out one group doesn't just catch prized Tarpon, they also catch their DNA.
Southwest Florida is known as prime Tarpon territory, and if you happen to catch one, you can take its DNA with a kit. The DNA acts as a fingerprint, telling about the health of fish populations and the environment.
It took almost half an hour to reel in this 100 pound tarpon. Once this group gets the big fish to the side of the boat, they take a DNA sample, by scrubbing its mouth with a special sponge. Then, they release the fish.
This is part of the mission of the Cape Coral Tarpon Hunters. The Genetic Recapture Study through FWC and Mote Marinie uses DNA fingerprinting to track the Tarpon.
The DNA of recaptured fish, over time, gives biologists a sense of the health of the environment, and relationship between the prized fish and different bodies of water.
"Find out where these fish have been, where they're going, their travel patterns, and hopefully where they spawn, so those areas can be protected in the future," said Cape Coral Tarpon Hunter Kenneth Jaros.
Once you get your sample, you mail it back. If your fish is caught again by someone else, FWC sends you a map showing you where it went. "That's what they're trying to do. Is connect the dots and they make sure those that contribute, we know that the fish we caught, has been caught again. It has lived to see another day," said Jaros.
The Tarpon Hunters only take a DNA sample when it's safe for the fish.Anyone can participate in this study, and FWC will sent you a kit for free.
Contact information for the tarpon genetic recapture study group.
FWC-Fish and Wildlife Research Institute
Attn: Tarpon Genetics
100 8th Avenue SE
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
Hotline: 800-367-4461 (toll-free in Florida)
For more information about The Cape Coral Tarpon Hunters, visit their website. You can also ask them questions about Tarpon, and the DNA program, as well.