Although anglers entered in the 2017 Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament are all about putting a big billfish in the boat, the blue water turns out other notable catches as well. Such was the case on June 13, when the Doc Fees crew found themselves tight with full grown wahoo — a 97.7 pounder caught by Chad McIntyre of Raleigh that turned out to be this year’s largest wahoo and one of the largest weighed in the tournament's history.
Trolling inside the tournament’s northern boundary off Hatteras, the 58’ Jarrett Bay owned by Taylor and Tracey Pleasant of Wrightsville Beach was seeking favorable water with Capt. Jed Galloway at the helm. Around 10:15 a.m., the boat erupted with enthusiasm when a big fish exploded on a Bonze Violator, the largest of 5 plugs the crew was pulling.
“The fish missed the plug,” said McIntyre. “It left a big hole in the water and everybody started getting excited. The mate cranked it in a couple turns, teased it up, dropped it back, and teased it up. It took about 45 seconds or so to circle back around and hit. It hit the left, short plug about 20 yards off the transom.”
With the big fish on for good this time, McIntyre climbed into the hot seat while the remaining lines were cleared. His reel was armed with a Shimano 80 spooled with a 100-pound mainline spliced to a 400-pound leader, and the fish stood little chance from a strength perspective. Luckily the 12/0 hook cabled to the leader took the teeth out of the equation.
“When it left a big hole in the water, we didn't know what it was,” said McIntyre. “It didn't make a huge run, didn't jump like a marlin. Somebody said it might be a tuna.”
Shortly after, the fish came into the 50 to 100-yard range and Galloway declared it not a tuna, but a good wahoo, and cautioned the crew to be careful with it.
“It didn't take 5 minutes to get it in,” said McIntyre. “It made one or two small runs. We pulled it up beside the boat carefully and the mate put the first gaff in her. When he smiled and yelled around for the second gaff, we knew that it might be something special.”
Still in the fighting chair, McIntyre dodged teeth as the fish was hoisted over the gunwale.
“When 5 people stand shoulder to shoulder with a wahoo, you know it's about 90 pounds,” said McIntyre. “This one we needed a 6th person, so to speak.”
The winning wahoo taped out at 75 inches long and carried a girth of 31 inches.