Key West is home to pastel-hued houses, wild roosters, and Ernest Hemingway’s six-toed cats. But it’s also a revered saltwater fishing destination, thanks to the elusive game fish that live in Florida’s shallow-water flats. We spent three days on the water with Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, who are working to conserve and restore declining fish populations — specifically bonefish, tarpon, and permit — in the Keys.
Shannon Moorhead is practicing her fly cast on a school of false albacore when the call comes through. Another boat caught a tarpon, the coastal game fish that Shannon and her peers, Luke Griffin and Robbie Roemer, have been contracted by Bonefish & Tarpon Trust to tag. The three PhD candidates traveled to Key West for Trippe’s Invitational Tarpon Series, an elite fishing tournament with a conservation bent — since tarpon have a low stress tolerance, anglers can fight the enormous, muscular fish for a maximum of 20 minutes.