June 2007

Arostegui Achieves 200th IGFA World Record

First person to reach major milestone in fishing accomplishments — and he’s not stopping there

DANIA BEACH, Fla. — His first world record fish was caught in the summer of 1994, a 10-pound triple tail on 4-pound tippet near Flamingo in the Everglades National Park. His 200th — — also on fly, came nearly 14 years later with a mullet snapper caught in Costa Rica. 
The news of Dr. Martin Arostegui, Coral Gables, Fla., being the first angler to reach the International Game Fish Association milestone came on the eve of the IGFA’s World Record Achievement Awards banquet where, ironically, he was receiving his third consecutive grand slam as the top male angler for the most world records in freshwater (24), fly (24) and tied for first for saltwater records (11) caught in 2006.

“Dr. Arostegui’s accomplishment of achieving 200 world records is truly a remarkable feat,” said IGFA President Rob Kramer. “Through careful planning, detailed preparation and steadfast perseverance, he has taken world record game fishing to an all-time high.”

Arostegui surpassed Herb Ratner, Greensburg, Pa., who retired from the intense pursuit with 181 world records. Through it all he’s also helped set the standards for fish conservation catching, documenting, photographing, and then safely releasing over 90 percent of the fish.

Noted as mostly a light-tackle angler especially with a fly rod, among Arostegui’s smallest fish recorded was a 1-pound fish (the IGFA minimum accepted weight) in the Unini River in the Amazon rain forest of Brazil; it was called a pinktail chalceus. 

“We weren’t sure what it was, but we entered it and through the documentation and identification, it became an all-tackle record and a new entry to the IGFA’s record book,” said Arostegui.  
Holds World Record For Largest Fish On Fly
Last year Arostegui received international attention from the news media for his largest fish, a 385-pound lemon shark caught on fly off Key West, Fla.

Into the hour-long fight, as he muscled the fish next to the boat, Arostegui said the dangerous and toothy shark attacked the hull of Capt. Ralph Delph’s 29-foot craft. 

“When it opened its huge mouth, I said to myself this shark could eat half of me in one bite,” joked the diminutive retired emergency room doctor who stands 5 feet tall and weighs 125 pounds.

What happened next was typical of the extensive planning and preparation for which Arostegui is noted. With the help of two other nearby fishermen, the huge fish was lassoed and wrestled into a specially designed 8-foot-long, 3-foot-deep aerated, hydraulic live well. 

After an hour-long ride back to Key West, the pair — with the help of Delph’s son Mike who is also a prominent Keys guide — finished documenting the catch using a portable briefcase-sized scale along with a special canvas sling to cradle the fish.

Minus the weight of the ropes and cradle, the lemon shark weighed 385 pounds (174.63 kg).

They then carefully slid the shark into the water of a nearby basin and while resuscitating it, — Arostegui in the water — measured the shark for its girth (49 inches) and length (90 inches) plus took photos. 

Looking at the photos of himself and Capt. Mike Delph standing in the water before releasing the giant fish, which an hour before had been biting the boat, Arostegui laughed and said, “I don’t recommend getting this close to a lemon shark, especially in his environment.” 
Caught on 12-pound tippet, which over-tested at the IGFA world records lab by 1 pound, the record was moved up to 16-pound tippet, but it was still the largest fish ever caught on fly.  

The year before Arostegui caught a 247-pound lemon shark on 8-pound tippet, another record that he believes will probably be in the books for a long time.

Prepared Purveyor Of Unusual, ‘Ugly’ Fish
Over this decade, Arostegui began traveling the world catching some obscure, unusual, and frankly “ugly” fish such as the giant snakehead in Malaysia, the prehistoric giant trahira in Suriname with sharp canine-like teeth, fly-fished the deep-waters of Alaska for yellow-eyed rockfish, and targeted alligator gar in Texas.

And, sometimes he doesn’t need to travel any farther than the canals of Broward County outside of Ft. Lauderdale for a snakehead, a gar along the Tamiami Trail beyond Miami’s city limits, or for a barracuda in the Keys.

“Some of my friends make fun of me for catching all these weird fish,” smiled Arostegui. “Most of my buddies’ primary focus is the snook and tarpon.

“I’ve caught a lot of those and like catching them. But, after catching so many, I said I need to find new challenges and weird things to learn about. I kind of have a challenge of catching them on a fly rod.”

Like a professional golfer with his bag of clubs for certain situations, Arostegui prepared numerous rods and reels for specific fishing circumstances. For a recent trip to the Kabelebo River deep in Suriname, he organized all the reels and spooled them with line that would test at the prescribed breaking strength for different records.

He’ll also designs specific flies and specific weed guards along with shock tippet made of wire knotted in front of the class line or tippet.

“There are a lot of piranhas there and when we fish, especially with bait we need to use wire or cable.

“While in the planning stages for a trip, I go on the IGFA Web site and look up the line class records, the all-tackle records, the fly and the junior records (when he’s accompanied by his son Martini who himself has over 80 world records at just age15), or ladies’ records (for wife Roberta) of fish in that country or region. 

“Typically I’ll spend some 30 hours of research finding out as much about the fish and what they eat and what flies to take.“

Just days before leaving on a spring-break trip with Martini to Suriname, their guide in the small South American country let him know to expect waters four hours upriver (by dug-out canoe) on the Kabelebo to be 15 feet higher than normal.

“That basically shut down my fly-fishing efforts, but I couldn’t cancel the trip because it was a meaningful event for my son and me so we did the next best thing. Because I wouldn’t have much of a chance at my record quest on fly for three specific fish (giant trahira, redtail catfish and sorubim catfish), we used the information gathered for Martini to pursue some records.”

The time was well spent as Martini has four pending junior records and could break two others – his father’s – from the trip. Martini hopes to be the first junior to capture 100 records before turning 17.

More Fly Fishing Ahead       

Arostegui says some of the best opportunities for records are on fly in the 2, 4, and 6-pound tippet categories. “But those are very frustrating because sometimes just hooking the fish, the line breaks.”       

He chuckled, “Every once in a while I swear I’m not going to do that anymore and then I’m back trying to catch a bigger one on 2-pound tippet. Sometimes it’s frustrating because you can lose a lot. Everything has to go perfectly. 

“It’s frustrating to have one big fish all day. Because you’re using this light line most of the time, you don’t catch it. That happens a lot and as a result, not a lot of people do the light line.  And when you have 2-pound or 4-pound tippet, it’s even more difficult than done on line class.

“It’s so frustrating,” he repeated, “but I’ve caught some very nice fish on light tippet.”
Editor’s Note: For more on the IGFA, its World Records Game Fishes book, conservation, rule making, and global record-keeping programs, go to www.igfa.org or call the IGFA at (954) 927-2628.