Charlie Cone of Newport was looking for a little downtime three weeks ago when he headed to Key West, Fla., to fish the Stock Island Marina Village King Mackerel Tournament with his son, Chris, who is station at Key West in the U.S. Coast Guard. It turned out to be a great trip all the way around, as the Cones won the tournament with a 78.66-pound fish that is set a tournament record, is the biggest fish ever caught in a Southern Kingfish Association-sanctioned tournament, and is a pending IGFA line-class world record.
The Cones caught the huge fish on Jan. 30 out of their boat, Three of a Kind, which Charlie Cone towed to Key West.
"We ran about 40 miles west of Key West and were working a break where the bottom dropped from about 70 feet to 130 feet," Charlie Cone said. "It was a little slow, but there was lots of bait, so we were going to work the area well. At about 10:20 or so, we had a strike on the prop-wash bait that screamed out, but it didn't hook up good and we lost it.
"We had rebaited and were talking about whether the first strike was a wahoo or a big king when the second fish hit," Cone said. "It was only about five minutes later. and it hit a goggle eye on the middle line. This fish burned out about 300 yards (of line) like it was nothing and then sounded. Chris was fighting it and had gotten a lot of the line back when it took off and burned another 150 yards and sounded again.
"We still hadn't seen this fish but knew there were some nice wahoo in the area, and I was convincing myself it was a wahoo," Cone said. "There was a tense moment about 20 minutes in when the nose hook pulled, but the stinger held. Finally, it rolled on its side, making a circle under the boat, and we didn't see any stripes. That gave us a surge of adrenaline; Chris coaxed it to the surface, and I stuck it with the gaff."
Cone said he knew the king was big and had guessed it would weigh somewhere between 60 and 70 pounds; he had to ask his son for help to lift it in.
"There is something about a king that size hitting the deck that you remember," Cone said. "It's a totally different sound; much more like a thud than a thump. Once you hear it, you won't forget it!"
Cone was pleasantly surprised when the fish wouldn't go completely into their king bag. Chris Cone later took measurements and recorded the big king at 63 ½ inches long (fork length) and 29 ½ inches in girth.
After weighing in the huge fish and being stunned by the 78.66-pound reading, the Cones opted out of fishing the second day of the tournament, put their boat on the trailer and figured first place was safe. They were correct.
According to Cone, the standing IGFA record for king mackerel in the 20-pound line class weighed 69.4 pounds and was caught in 1979. Cone has completed the record application and sent in the rig and 30 feet of line tied to it as required. He anticipates hearing that the record will be confirmed later this spring.
Cone said the huge king was caught on High Seas Quattro line using a Shimano Trinidad reel on an Outer Banks rod. The rig Cone made used titanium leader back to a No. 3 Gamakatsu live-bait hook, then No. 5 AFW single-strand wire to a No. 2 treble belly hook and a No. 4 treble stinger hook.