Talk about a fisherman’s tale: Thief makes off with 50lb tarpon stolen from Bass Pro fish tank

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Florida Grinch wanted after treating Bass Pro Shops as personal Whoville; making off with 50-pound tarpon days before Christmas.

“We guess you could say THIS one will o-fish-ially catch your eye.”

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office is seeking help from the public as multiple agencies in Florida have joined up following Wednesday’s theft from the Fort Myers retail location.

With two accomplices in tow, one said to have had a Go Pro camera according to NBC2, a male suspect was videoed entering the Bass Pro Shops in the Gulf Coast Town Center only to turn around and leave with what was said to be a 50-pound Silver King Tarpon in a net.

Sharing video of the suspect leaving the scene with his catch of the day, the LCSO leaned into the puns regarding the active investigation. “But not just your ‘normal’ retail theft. We guess you could say THIS one will o-fish-ially catch your eye.”

“Yesterday evening, a male suspect entered the Bass Pro Shops in Gulf Coast Town Center with a fish net in hand, and proceeded to remove a live tarpon from the store’s indoor fish pond,” the post stated though firsthand accounts had said he had grabbed the net off a shelf.

Other shoppers could be seen stepping aside to stand clear of the individual handling the wildly flopping netted fish.

“The suspect then fled the store with the tarpon. South District Detectives are working with our Animal Cruelty Task Force…in an attempt to locate the individuals involved,” they said of the investigation that also brought in the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Speaking with NBC2, Bass Pro Shops employee Chance Floyd explained, “Somebody came up to me holding a scale of a tarpon and said, ‘Look, somebody just stole a tarpon.’”

“I couldn’t believe it, honestly, like I don’t understand why they’d do that, and it was just so shocking to me that somebody would stoop low enough to do that,” he added. “They can’t really last long because once they get to a certain size, they’re not supposed to take them out of the water. So he obviously took it out of the water forcefully and then walked all the way out of the store.”

Previously, the same Bass Pro Shops had experienced a different disturbance at their indoor water features when, in 2020, a man had dove into the tank near the pond where the tarpon was pulled from.

“Don’t Get Caught Aiding & A-bait-ing” LCSO added after expressing their desire to “Chum it up” with the suspect.

Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers reminded that help in identifying the suspect could result in a cash reward if an arrest is made, up to as much as $3,000, and the Florida Wildlife Conservation had made clear tarpons are protected in the state.

Meanwhile, social media users speculated about the reason behind the theft, including commentary on other retail incidents from those “just trying to feed [their] family.”

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Kevin Haggerty
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