Massive seatrout likely to break world record

Luke Ledbetter poses with giant spotted sea trout. Photo: Peter Deeks

A Florida angler has reeled in a massive spotted seatrout that’s likely to recognized as a new world record.

Luke Ledbetter, visiting the Melbourne area from Alabama, thought at first that he had hooked a large snook or a redfish, based on the weight being applied to his line.

But a ferocious head shake during the fight reveled a “gator trout” that would tape out at 87 centimeters, or 34.25 inches.

“I had no idea speckled trout got that big,” Ledbetter told Florida Today.

The current record in the International Game Fish Association’s relatively new length-record program, designed to encourage catch-and-release, stands at 79 inches.

Ledbetter was fishing with spinning gear in the Indian River Flat area with Capt. Peter Deeks of Native Sons Fishing Guides. The angler had caught a smaller seatrout, and had his line break while hooked up to two larger fish, so he knew prospects were good.

The gator trout, a term used to describe unusually large seatrout, struck a live bait and immediately turned to Ledbetter’s right, then surfaced and tried to shake the hook.

“When she breached the surface of the water, I realized it was a massive seatrout,” Ledbetter recalled on Facebook. “During the intense fight, the fish made two long runs. We all held our breath as the monster was finally netted.”

Deeks, who is serious about catch-and-release, kept the fish out of the water just long enough for measurements and photos.

“The girth on this one was just incredible,” he told Florida Today. “The largest trout I’ve ever weighed was a 33-inch trout that was 13.9 pounds, but this one was even fatter. But I hate weighing them; hate hanging them by the jaw. They’re really sensitive fish.”

He estimated the weight of Ledbetter’s fish to be at least 14 pounds, and after the release he telephoned the IGFA to make the Florida-based organization aware of the catch.

“It didn’t register in my mind how special it was until Peter made that phone call,” Ledbetter said. “It was euphoric knowing I may have caught a world record.”

The IGFA has made note, stating on its website: “The fish measured out to an impressive 87 cm (34.25 in) and was released alive – qualifying Ledbetter for the All-Tackle Length world record. The current IGFA record stands at 79 cm.” It typically takes weeks before the IGFA officially approves record submissions, but Deeks said he and Ledbetter followed IGFA rules.

For the sake of comparison, the IGFA all-tackle record for a spotted seatrout that was killed and weighed stands at 17 pounds, 7 ounces. That fish was caught off Ft. Pierce, Florida, in 1995.

Spotted seatrout, members of the drum family, inhabit the western Atlantic from about New York to the Gulf of Mexico, and prefers shallow portions of bays and estuaries. They’re among the most popular game fish in Florida.

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