One Memorable Fish

Talking Fish, Talking Boats with the Boatbuilders of North Carolina
By John Turner,

Catching the Horizon, By Chris Landry continued

“What was your most memorable fish?”

JOHN BAYLISS
I was a mate working for Sam Stokes. We fought a blue marlin for 22½ hours and lost him. That was in 1978, when boats were simpler — no generators, no freshwater tanks. We hooked him at 10 o’clock in the morning and lost him at 8:30 the next morning. We fought that rascal all day and night, no good light, running out of food and water, everybody exhausted. We must have had the leader 30 times but couldn’t get him close enough to gaff him. I would love to have a shot at him again.

SUNNY BRIGGS
We fought a blue marlin for 8½ hours. It was an 800-pound fish, maybe more. One angler fought it the entire time. The fish stayed deep, and when a fish stays deep that’s when he beats you because you can’t follow him. We thought we were getting the wire for the last time, but the knot at the swivel broke. The man was sitting in a bucket harness, gasping for breath. He didn’t have his hands on the reel. The rod snapped back and hit him between the eyes and knocked him cold. It was like someone had hit him with a Louisville Slugger. And he stayed knocked out for 20 minutes. It has been 30 to 40 years, and still I remember his name.

PAUL MANN
Southeast of Oregon Inlet with calm seas, we were fishing around grass for dolphin. There was 2-pound Spanish mackerel in the long rigger, and then the blue marlin bite came on at dead idle. I was fishing with one of the most experienced anglers I knew. I remember getting the huge blue marlin to the side of the boat for a release. It was estimated at 1,000 pounds or larger — only the fish gods know! A picture of the fish is on my wall at home.

RICKY SCARBOROUGH JR.
About two years ago, my 13-year-old nephew [Sonny Albarty] had a double lung transplant after spending a year in the hospital. He couldn’t do anything. He was hooked to every machine known to man. I took him fishing in the Dare County Boat Builders Tournament, and he caught two white marlin and a spearfish, which is unique for these waters. I was so proud of him. My wife, Sarah, was with me, and we were fishing from the last boat I built with my father, the 74-foot Eye Roller. What a special day.

RITCHIE HOWELL
We were fishing up in the Northeast from our inlet here. We had hooked some big tuna and maybe had five on. We caught four of them and got the fifth right up to the stern. This blue marlin — it was maybe 700 pounds — I watched it eat a 50-pound tuna with so much ease. You would think there would be a lot of violence and thrashing and carrying on. It seemed like it was in slow motion. I was just watching that tuna disappear down his throat. It was almost peaceful. He just rolled up there nice and calm and ate the tuna and went on about his business. We had him on for a few minutes, but that didn’t last.

RANDY RAMSEY
We hooked a blue marlin on a short rigger on a regular 50. I was agitated with the mate and didn’t think he was putting enough heat on the fish. I saw her push her head out. She didn’t have a very long bill, and I didn’t think she was that big. After about 45 or 50 minutes we finally got the fish alongside and estimated the fish was 800 pounds. We decided to let her go. We only had the fish on a 150-pound leader. The mate took one wrap and broke her right off and watched her swim away.

PAUL SPENCER
I had the opportunity to go to Australia and fish with one of the top mates of all time, Charles Perry. We spent eight or 10 days on the Great Barrier Reef. My son caught a 1,120-pound black marlin. That was an incredible fight — on a Thanksgiving Day. I was glad he was in the chair. It was a tough, physical fight. He was in his late 20s. I don’t know if I could have done what he did. There was a tremendous amount of drag and strain on the fish. I think everyone on the boat did his job. That’s when you win the battle.

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