Tommy Craddock of Oak Island looked at Oct. 30 like he does many other days. He had a little work to do and hoped to go fishing. The focus of his day changed, however, when he hooked into a 12-pound, 14-ounce flounder.
Craddock, a retired fireman/paramedic from Guliford County, runs a stump-grinding business on Oak Island and enjoys fishing so much he occasionally carries his fishing tackle with him to work and fishes on breaks or after work.
On Oct. 30, he arrived at a job site before the crew working was ready for him, so he decided to kill time by fishing from a friend’s nearby dock on the Intracoastal Waterway. He didn’t have to wait long before meeting up with what might be one of the biggest flounder caught all year in North Carolina waters.
“It hit immediately, on my first cast, and inhaled the bait,” Craddock said. “I cast, then flipped the bail shut and reeled in the slack line. The line came tight and there was resistance and I thought I was hung. When I flipped the rod tip to try and free it, the fish took off.
“I knew immediately it was something big, but I didn’t know what,” Craddock said. “It ran out and then down and was very strong. I was just fishing a lightweight Shimano Jimmy Houston outfit with a 2000-size reel and 8-pound test Spiderwire, and it took line whenever it wanted.
When Craddock finally tired the fish enough to get some of his line back on the reel and get a look at the fish, he realized it was the biggest flounder he’d ever hooked. He also realized he’d left his net in his truck, but one of his neighbors saw what was going on, asked what he could do to help, and retrieved the net.
“If he hadn’t gotten that net for me, I don’t think I would have landed this fish,” Craddock said. “When I first saw the flounder and realized its size and that I didn’t have my net, I thought I could beach it. That was a good idea, but he wasn’t having anything to do with it. I got him close to the bank three times, but every time, he saw the grass and ran back out.
“He tried to go under the dock and around pilings several times,” Craddock said. “It was all I could do to keep it from wrapping around a piling. With 8-pound test line, you can’t pull too hard.”
Craddock breathed a big sigh of relief when the neighbor reached down and scooped the flounder up with the net.
“I knew it was a huge flounder and definitely the largest I had ever caught,” Craddock said. “I didn’t realize it was that big until I weighed it at Wildlife Bait and Tackle. When they get excited over a flounder, you know it’s a big one.”
Craddock’s big flounder hit a 3-inch Gulp! shrimp fished on a ¼-ounce leadhead jig. He said the flounder sucked the bait down as soon as it hit the water and was already hooked when he tightened down on the line.
The fish, weighed on certified scales at the tackle shop, was 29 ½ inches long and 25 inches in girth.
Craddock’s is the second 12-pound flounder caught in the waters around the mouth of the Cape Fear River in slightly more than a month. The other weighed 12 pounds even and was caught by David Derrick on Sept. 21.