Jim Lasher of Isle of Palms was enjoying a good day of dolphin fishing out of IOP Marina with some coworkers and friend Capt. Ben Floyd of Charleston Fish Finder on May 1, the opening day of grouper season, when Lasher asked Floyd if he thought they’d get a chance to try for  the bottom fish. Not long after, Lasher landed the new state record gag grouper, a 54+ pound beast that put up quite a tussle.

“We were having a great day with the mahi-mahi and I just put a bug in Ben’s ear about trying for grouper before we went in. He said if we saw anything worth while, we’d give it a try,” said Lasher, a chef at Home Team BBQ on Sullivan’s Island.

The dolphin bite was hot though, and they continued to catch them trolling, and also had a field day with peanut dolphin every time they encountered a weedline, where they would stop the boat and cast plugs, drawing strike after strike.

“We’re all good friends with Capt. Ben, and we fish with him a couple of times a year. He’s really good at finding structure and positioning the boat, and it really paid off as we were heading back in,” said Lasher.

Around 2 p.m., Floyd was checking his electronics as they headed back to the marina, and noticed some structure that was about 160 feet down. He told the guys to give it a shot. Lasher dropped a 6-ounce Spro Bucktail Jig with a small piece of cut bait down, jigged it once or twice, and he was hooked up.

“We didn’t even anchor. Ben just swung the boat on top of the structure when he saw it. Once I was hooked up, I reeled in about 30 feet of line, but the fish decided he didn’t like that, so he peeled it back off and got into the structure. I thought I was done for,” Lasher said.

With the fish pinned into the structure, it became a standstill between man and beast, and neither was giving up any ground. Floyd swung the boat around, Lasher gave the fish some slack, and luckily the grouper swam out. The fight was back on.

“It doesn’t always work out, but sometimes your only shot is to give the fish some slack and hope it relaxes. The fish had worn himself out, but even then he still had some fight left in him. The other guys caught an amberjack or two by the time I landed the grouper. Once we got it on the boat, we were pretty sure we had something special, so we headed in,” said Lasher.

They had something special indeed. After weighing the fish at the IOP Marina, and then again at Haddrell’s Point Tackle for confirmation, Lasher called the SCDNR, but it was too late in the day for the agency to get someone to check the fish out, so they met Lasher the next morning and officially weighed and certified the grouper at 54 pounds, 4 ounces, shattering the previous record of 48 pounds, 8 ounces.