George Wulgemuth had a feeling early on the morning of October 9 that it had potential to be a special day. His feeling was correct and it was Wulgemuth, of Goldsboro, who played the biggest role in making it a day he - and numerous other fishermen on Seaview Pier at North Topsail Beach - will remember for years. Before the day was over, Wulgemuth landed a king mackerel that weighed 50.1 pounds, far exceeding his previous personal best.
As Wulgemuth walked out onto the pier the sun was just beginning to peek over the eastern horizon to welcome a beautiful fall day at the N.C. Coast. Wulgemuth felt the conditions were right for a fall king run. He was correct, but he was going to have to wait a while for the action to fire up.
"Walking out the pier, I looked to the east side of the pier and a king busted through some 'haden (menhaden) and went about eight feet into the air," Wulgemuth said. "That was pretty neat and since our fall fish usually come from the east, I considered it a good sign. I then looked to the west and in just a couple of minutes another king busted into the air there too. I looked straight out front and yet another king skied on bait there. It was still not full daylight and seeing those three kings in the air before 7:00 A.M. made me feel really good about fishing that morning. I was sure the bite was going to fire right off and I rushed to get ready and get my line out."
On the drive from his home in Goldsboro, Wulgemuth thought he would be arriving early and would get one of the coveted corner spots on the pier. However, several fishermen that lived closer had arrived first and by the time he could select a spot, the best option was in the middle of the pier's Tee. He cast his anchor line and got it set to run the king trolley, then baited with a frisky bluefish, lowered it into the water and sat back to wait for a strike.
"If you're impatient, king fishing from a pier isn't for you," Wulgemuth said. "I was excited that morning after seeing kings sky all around the pier and I thought the action would begin right away. Unfortunately it didn't and still hadn't started several hours later."
Wulgemuth said the king action began about noon and fishermen caught 7 of 14 strikes from then until dark. He said a king had been caught on both sides of him and another to the right before his number came up.
"I almost changed my bait, but decided not to," Wulgemuth said. "It was a bluefish and was looking a little tired, but it was still swimming and I decided to give it a little longer to produce a strike.
"I was sitting under the cover at the end of the pier and wondering why I wasn't getting strikes when my king hit," Wulgemuth said. "I hopped up to the pier's railing and grabbed my fighting rod. One of the pier regulars said he had seen it eat the bait and it was a big fish. After hearing this, I backed off on the drag a bit and let it run to get away from the pier and tire itself out."
Wulgemuth said someone else was fighting a king when his hit, another reason to let his stay away from the pier. The king's first run was about 350 yards and it made several shorter ones as it tired. As the big king was tiring, it came to the surface a couple of times and Wulgemuth realized it was indeed a large fish - and easily larger than any he had caught previously. Finally it was tired and barely moving, so Wulgemuth thought he could handle it around the pilings and began leading it towards the pier.
Wulgemuth led the tired king in and Eric Fowler snagged it with his gaff. Seeing that big king energized Fowler as he easily hoisted the big king up to the pier's railing and swung it over onto the deck.
"When I saw it laying on the deck, there was no doubt it was larger than my previous best of 38 pounds," Wulgemuth said. "I'm not into numbers and records, so I didn't have any idea how much larger, but the difference was noticeable. I took the king over to beside the bait pen and shelter and laid it out on the pier deck while I fished a little longer. The action was picking up and I thought I could catch another before calling it a day. I figured it weighed more than 40 pounds and that was nice, but not something to get overly excited about."
Several hours later Wulgemuth strapped the big king to his fishing cart as he prepared to head down the pier and leave. Several fishermen commented on how large the fish was and insisted he should weigh it. He stopped in the pier house a minute to talk with Seaview Pier Owner Greg Ludlum and Ludlum convinced Wulgemuth to weigh the fish. Wulgemuth said he was surprised when the scales pulled beyond 45 pounds and was absolutely shocked when they finally settled at 50.1 pounds.
Wulgemuth's king barely missed the Seaview Pier record of 50.5 pounds. When reminded that he had let it dry out for more than an hour before having it weighed and that would make it lose weight, Wulgemuth slowly replied that it may have cost him the pier record and while it would have been nice to have it, this was still his largest king ever and it weighed more than 50 pounds. There are very few pier fishermen and only a handful of boat fishermen that can boast of catching a king mackerel of 50 pounds or more, so with this outstanding catch Wulgemuth joined an elite fishing fraternity.
Ludlum filled out the N.C. Annual Fishing Tournament citation paperwork for Wulgemuth and listed the official length as 56.25 inches, the girth as 23 inches and the weight as 50.1 pounds. Several fishermen wondered what it would have weighed if it had been brought to the scales immediately after being decked and Wulgemuth finally admitted he wondered too. That will never be answered, but everyone is sure it would have weighed more. How much more is the question. It may not be the new record, but congratulations are still in order for Wulgemuth for an outstanding catch.