Until April 14.
After 28 years of offshore fishing, Rayl finally connected with his first wahoo 15 miles east of Frying Pan Tower.
And what a connection it was. After a 2-hour battle, Rayl
and his cousin, Johnny Brown, hoisted a mammoth, 101-pound wahoo, over the gunwales of Brown's 28-foot Triton, the Mackenzie Morgan, shortly after noon.
The two had planned a king mackerel trip to Frying Pan Tower, armed with conventional Shimano Speedmaster reels loaded with 20-pound mono and nothing but live-bait king mackerel tackle and rigs – wahoo was never part of the itinerary. They left Southport shortly before daylight, arriving at the tower at sunrise to jig up live cigar minnows. After several hours of slow fishing, they moved east.
Ten minutes after they arrived, the bait on the downrigger rod, set 21 feet deep, snapped up and almost instantly doubled over, with line screaming off as fast as any reel could lose its line. In just a few seconds, nearly 400 yards of line had left the spool, with only a thin reserve remaining.
Rayl noticed the problem and yelled to Brown, "Look at this reel; you'd better kick her in gear. You don't have time to get the other rods up, just go!"
Brown swung the boat around, allowing Rayl to recover much of the line, and as the boat gained on the fish, Rayl could tell it was near the surface. He yelled at Brown again: "Hey John, run up closer to him and see what it is!"
When they had recovered enough line, they began to make out the shape of a huge shiny fish cruising just below the water's surface.
"John, what is that up yonder? Look!" Rayl said.
"Holy crap, Tim! That's a bull wahoo!" Brown responded.
The fishermen battled the fish, gaining and losing line repeatedly, until they finally had it in gaffing range. Brown put the first gaff into the fish's head, but it responded by thrashing violently. Rayl quickly put a second gaff in, gaining control of the fish, but exhausted, a question still remained.
"I don't think we're going to get him in the boat," Rayl said.
Rayl and Brown eventually found enough strength to heave the behemoth – which weighed 101 pounds back at the dock – into the boat, ending a memorable saga.
Light tackle, treble hooks, and a limited crew didn't stop these anglers from being victorious over one of the largest wahoo to be taken off the North Carolina coast this year.