Flying tarpon can be hazardous to health

Tuesday, July 31, 2001 at 1:00am

I picked up an unusual fish story the other day, while reading.

Tarpon are great acrobatic fish, they leap from the water twisting and turning. They're exceptionally strong fish, too, bending fishing rods almost into a complete circle.

Well, here's a new twist, especially after all the news recently concerning shark attacks on our beaches down south.

A guy by the name of Casey McDermott, was surfing alone on New Smyrna Beach, Fla., one day about one o'clock in the afternoon. He was ready to catch a wave, and that's the last thing he remembers before waking up in the intensive care unit of the Bert Fish Medical Center four hours later with a concussion, a broken nose, and cuts to his face requiring 15 stitches, all courtesy of a spooked tarpon.

The owner of a surf shop, Chuck Carter, was surfing about 200 feet away when it happened. "I looked over just as he was going for a wave, and right out of the back of the wave this tarpon jumped about 3 feet. I didn't see it hit him. Actually, I was going to paddle over to ask the guy if he's seen the tarpon, because it's a pretty rare thing. But after the white water settled down, his board was just floating there," Carter recalled.

With no surfer coming back up, Carter started paddling faster toward the floating board. "There was a cloud of blood in the water, and the guy was a couple of feet under, just limp. I grabbed him and brought him up, he started coughing up blood all over his face so you couldn't even see where he was cut." Carter said McDermott's eyes were open, but he wasn't responsive.

"He was just kind of moaning. I got him on my board and started paddling him in and just kept talking to him, telling him help was on the way," Carter added.

An ambulance took McDermott to the hospital, where he stayed for two days.

Carter estimates the fish was in excess of 4 feet long. McDermott, 22, said, "I've been surfing for 16 years, and I've never heard of anything like this happening. I'm an avid fisherman. Maybe they're just getting me back for all the tarpon I've caught over the years."

Rockfish released

Hundreds of thousands of rockfish (stripers) have been released into the Cumberland River impoundments

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