Pigfish aren't a species that immediately brings visions of deeply bent rods and screaming reels, but there are N.C. state and IGFA world records and Jason Edwards' May 23rd catch has been approved for one and is pending for the other. Edwards' pigfish weighed 2 pounds and 12 ounces which bested the former N.C. state record by a half pound.
Edwards, of Rocky Mount, caught the big pigfish while on a bottom fishing trip aboard the Capt. Stacy IV. They were fishing a hard bottom area approximately 30 miles southeast of Cape Lookout. The fish hit a piece of squid fished on the bottom on 80 pound line from a Penn 66 reel on a standard Capt. Stacy boat rod.
“The action was good and I didn't think anything about it at the time," Edwards said. "It was about the same size as the black sea bass, triggerfish, and snappers we were all catching, so I slid it on my stringer and kept fishing. The only difference was it was croaking very loud. This caught the attention of one of the mates who looked at it and remarked that it was the largest pigfish he had ever seen.
"I guess I should have realized something when the mate showed it to most of the crew and they all remarked about its size," Edwards said. "However, it wasn't a huge fish; it was less than 3 pounds. I didn't think anything of it. I was having fun catching fish and went back to fishing.”
Upon returning to Atlantic Beach, Edwards was one of the last in line to have his fish cleaned, so he left them at the Capt. Stacy Fishing Center and went to get a shower and dinner while the fish cleaners were hard at work.
He returned to the Capt. Stacy Fishing Center after dark to pick up his cleaned fish and had a surprise. Jenny Brinson and Jonathan Taylor of the Fishing Center told him they were so surprised with the size of his pigfish they weighed and measured it for a citation, even though pigfish weren't listed as a citation species for the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries Citation Program.
This is when his wife suggested checking the state record and they realized it was a half pound heavier than the record. This started a scramble as they hadn't taken a picture of it by itself. In fact, there was only one picture of all of his catch and his wife had insisted on it as he walked off the boat.
This was a charter trip on the Capt. Stacy IV headboat and Edwards wasn't originally slated to go. His luck had gotten him on this trip when someone else couldn't go, then put him in the right place on the boat's rail to make the catch and it held out one more time. The big pigfish was plainly visible in the picture and the next morning biologists at the Division of Marine Fisheries agreed on the identification from the picture. The state record approval process began then and the record was approved in mid July.
At the point his fish was being considered for the N.C. state record, one of Edwards sons suggested checking the world record. At first glance, the world record appeared to be heavier, but Edwards' good luck came into play again. A little more checking found the existing world record to be a different species of pigfish, so Edwards also applied for an IGFA World Record. That is a lengthier process and will take approximately 60 to 90 days for the determination.
The former record weighed 2 pounds and 4 ounces and was caught by Walter Campbell in 1991.