On a bottom fishing trip 43 miles southeast of Little River on April 29, Capt. Danny Juel and the crew aboard the Fish Screamer 3 were busy loading the fish box with triggerfish and vermillion snapper while fishing a ledge in 90 feet of water. But, when a surprise visitor engulfed the dead sardine pinned to their “light line”, they had to make room for a 115-pound wahoo that measured 73 inches long with a 34-inch girth.
Anchored up live bottom, Juel (843-446-1913) and his mate, Capt. T.J. Nixon, deployed the “light line,” which held a king mackerel rig consisting of a #4 treble hook and a 2/0 nose hook, wired together onto a steel leader.
“We were trying to pick up a nice king or a mahi, whatever would come along,” said Juel, who lives in Little River and runs Fish Screamer Charters. “The last fish we expected it to be was a big wahoo, especially on that little, light rod. We had him on a little Avet reel with 40-pound monofilament line.”
As Juel’s customers bottom fished, the sardine rested opportunistically near the surface. Suddenly, the reel whined as line peeled off of it when the wahoo hit. One of the anglers rushed to get the rod from its holder, but could do little with the bullet train on the other end.
“He just about cleaned the reel out,” said Juel. “T.J. said, ‘Danny, he’s going to take all the line out!’ But, there was nothing I could do because we were anchored up. I told them to tighten down the drag a little and hope for the best.”
And the best is what they got. Just in time, the fish turned and the angler began putting line back on the reel. But, it still took over an hour of reel-melting runs before the crew saw the fish.
“I had a good feeling it was a big wahoo,” said Juel. “But, in the 90 foot range I had my doubts because that’s kind of unusual in there. When it finally rolled behind the boat, I couldn't believe the size of it. I said, ‘That's a hundred pounder if it’s an ounce.’”
Once in range, Juel sunk the gaff and requested a hand from Nixon to pull the fish over the side. Then, they stood in amazement at their good fortune.
“I've been all up and down the whole east coast,” said Juel. “I lived in Florida for six years, fished in the keys, in the Bahamas, but I've never caught one that big. It was an awesome fish. We were really lucky to get him on that 40-pound outfit.”