Arostegui in class by himself

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George W. Perry is known far and wide for just one world record - the 22-pound, 4-ounce largemouth bass he caught on June 2, 1932 in Telfair County, Ga.'s Montgomery Lake.

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Martin Arostegui, a retired doctor from Coral Gables, Fla., caught his first world-record fish in 1994. He now owns 200 world records.  International Game Fish Association
International Game Fish Association
Martin Arostegui, a retired doctor from Coral Gables, Fla., caught his first world-record fish in 1994. He now owns 200 world records.
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That's nothing compared to Dr. Martin Arostegui, of Coral Gables, Fla. Not as well known as Perry, whose record still stands, the retired emergency room physician owns 200 world records, based on line class.

Fly-fishing in the Everglades National Park in 1994, the doctor known to his friends as "Marty" caught a 10-pound tripletail on a 4-pound-test tippet, or leader. That was world record No. 1.

His 200th was a mullet snapper caught on a fly in Costa Rica nearly 14 years later, according to the International Game Fish Association.

Arostegui surpassed the 181 world records held by Herb Ratner, of Greensburg, Pa., who retired from the intense pursuit.

"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."

Among his smallest was a 1-pound fish (the IGFA's minimum accepted weight) caught in the Unni River of Brazil's Amazon rain forest called the 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," Arostegui said.

Not all of his record fish were so tiny. Last year, he made headlines by catching his largest fish - a 385-pound lemon shark - on a fly off Key West, Fla. During the hour-long fight, the shark attacked the hull of charter Capt. Ralph Delph's 29-foot boat.

"When it opened its huge mouth, I said to myself that this shark could eat half of me in one bite," laughed Arostegui, who stands five feet tall and weighs about 125 pounds.

With the help of two nearby fishermen, the shark was lassoed and wrestled into a specially designed, eight-foot-long, three-foot-deep aerated, hydraulic live well. After driving back to Key West, the fisherman and skipper finished documenting the fish using a portable, briefcase-sized scale and a special canvas sling to cradle the fish.

They then slid the shark into the water of a nearby basin and Arostegui climbed into the water to help resuscitate it, at the same time measuring its length (90 inches) and girth (49 inches around). The fisherman said later that he didn't recommend "getting this close to a lemon shark, especially in his environment."

The 12-pound-test tippet he used over-tested at the IGFA world records lab by one pound, so the record was moved up to 16-pound-test. The shark is still the largest fish ever caught on a fly. Arostegui, two years ago, caught a 247-pound lemon shark on an 8-pound-test tippet and thinks that's another record that probably will be on the books for a long time.

He has safely released more than 90 percent of his record fish.

During a recent interview, Arostegui said he ties his own flies, thus getting an extra thrill when he hooks and lands a record fish. The lemon shark struck a fly in a color he calls "Coast Guard orange," reminiscent of the color of most personal flotation devices.

The fisherman is not going to rest on his laurels.

"My son, Martini, and I will soon be off to Texas where we hope to catch a world record alligator garfish on a fly. My son holds a world junior record with a 159-pounder. We'll be fishing in Sam Rayburn and Livingston lakes where it's a common sight to see the gars concentrated in certain areas."

Then it's off to Suriname and a shot (or rather, a cast) at a fish called trahira.

"You're familiar with bowfins or mudfish, so imagine one of those with two- or three-inch-long teeth. My biggest is a 15-pounder on a 12-pound-test tippet, but they can grow 25 to 30 pounds."

Fishing editor Bill Baab contributed to this story.

Reach Rob Pavey at (706) 866-1222, ext. 119, or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.


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