Bruce Vosburgh, of Kennett Square, Pa., fishes out of Ocracoke, N.C., several times a year, but his trip on Sept. 12 with his daughter, brother and some friends was special. Fishing aboard the Drumstick with Capt. Marty Baumgaertel, he caught a huge rainbow runner that was later established as the first state record for that species.
"It was already a good day when the rainbow runner hit," Vosburgh said. "We had trolled on the way out and caught a Mahi, then bottom-fished for a while and caught a lot of mixed fish. We switched to jigging, and I had just caught an amberjack and thought this might be another.
"It pulled as hard and determined as an amberjack, but it fought longer. It didn't make any long runs, but there were several times I thought it had quit fighting only to have it take off and run back to the bottom. When it turned and headed down there was nothing I could do to stop it. Finally it began to tire and let me reel it in."
The big fish hit a butterfly jig tied to 80-pound braid on a Penn Spinfisher V reel and Sea Striker Billfish spinning rod.
"I was up on the bridge and the first time I saw it, the blue and yellow was lit up and I thought it was a dolphin," Baumgaertel said. "Then it turned and showed more side and I realized it wasn't. I didn't know what it was right then, but I didn't even think rainbow runner.
"We catch a few of them, but I'd never seen one this big. Most run around 8 to 10 pounds. Bruce asked if we should keep it, and I answered yes, but I was thinking of eating it, not a record. They have pretty white meat and taste good. Some folks say they make very good sushi."
At Anchorage Marina, the fish was officially weighed at 23 pounds, 8 ounces. “Someone suggested we look up the state record,” Vosburgh said. “There wasn’t one listed, so we made a call to (the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries) and asked what to do. The answer was to fill out a state-record application and send it and pictures, so we did."
Part of the criteria for establishing a state record requires that a fish's weight compare well with the word record and the records of neighboring states. Although it wasn’t close to Tom Pfleger's 37-pound, 9-ounce world record caught in 1991 off the coast of Mexico, it was substantially heavier than W.D. Harder's 14-pound, 14-ounce South Carolina record caught off Georgetown in 1985. An NCDMF committee decided to certify the fish as a record.
Vosburgh's rainbow runner was 52.5 inches long and 20.5 inches in girth. Rainbow runners are a member of the jack family and are found in most temperate waters of the South Atlantic. They prefer offshore waters to nearshore waters and are not found in large numbers anywhere.