When Matthew McKnight left Rhinebeck, N.Y., to visit his brother, Sean, on the Outer Banks, the two decided that an offshore fishing trip was in order, and it was a great decision. Fishing on the “Big Tahuna” out of Teach’s Lair Marina in Hatteras on June 1, Matthew McKnight boated a 73-pound dolphin that was six pounds shy of the 21-year-old state record.
Capt. Chris Bock told the McKnights that it might be a little rough last Sunday, and it would be their choice to make or skip the trip. Obviously, it was a good decision.
“Sure, it was a little rough, but we had the first fish on in less than 15 minutes, and the fishing was good,” McKnight said. “The fishing was good enough and steady enough we were absorbed in it and weren’t worried about how rough it was. The dolphin were biting, and we also had a sailfish on for a while that finally threw the hook just before reaching the boat.”
Sometime around mid-morning, they had a double. Sean McKnight took one rod and Matthew McKnight the other. It was obvious rather quickly that Matthew’s fish wasn’t just another of the gaffer-sized dolphin they had been catching.
“My brother was making some headway with his fish, but I was still losing line after a couple of minutes,” McKnight said. “I had to move to the fighting chair where I could put some more pressure on the fish. We saw it jump and knew it was a dolphin, but it was a ways behind the boat and no one wanted to guess the size. Big was agreed, but I could tell it was a beast as it was pulling harder than anything I had ever caught before.”
McKnight said it took 45 minutes to finally wrestle the big bull to within range of the gaff. During that time, he got it close to the boat five times, but each time, the fish found more energy and made another big run. Finally it tired, and he got it within gaff range of Ian Molder, the mate.
“He said it was a very big dolphin,” McKnight said. “He guessed it would weigh about 55 pounds and slipped it into the fish box. I was glad it was in. It was the largest dolphin I had ever caught and was the hardest fighting of any fish yet and we have caught lots of tuna on the “Big Tahuna” on other trips.”
Word spread about McKnight’s catch, and a small crowd had gathered when Bock (252-996-0448) eased the boat back to the dock. McKnight’s dolphin was 59 ½ inches long and 33 inches in girth. The official weight was 73 pounds, only six pounds shy of the state record and the largest dolphin ever caught on the Big Tahuna or weighed at Teach’s Lair (252-986-2460).
“It was a huge dolphin,” said John “JAM” Mortensen of Teach’s Lair. “It was the largest I have ever seen or weighed. It was so thick it was hard to estimate how heavy it was going to be. There were definitely a few people who thought it might challenge the state record, and it was close. It was within 10 percent.”