Last Thursday started out like many other days for Clyde Coltrane of Rodanthe, N.C. A spry, 75-year-old who said he either works or fishes about every day, he went to Rodanthe Pier to fish for king mackerel, happy to be fishing. A few hours later, he was even happier, when his huge, 60-pound king mackerel hit the planks at the pier’s end.
And it probably weighed more, according to Chris Wickline at Rodanthe Pier, who said the fish bottomed out the pier’s scales, which read to 60 pounds. It was speculated that the fish easily pushed 65 pounds, but Coltrane was happy with the 60-pound weight and didn’t take it anywhere else to be weighed.
"My day started slowly," Coltrane said. "I was at the pier early but had a lot of trouble catching bait. I finally caught a small yellow-tailed jack and put it out, even though I didn't think it was a good bait. I didn't have anything else and I learned a long time ago you can't catch fish unless you have bait, in the water, so I hooked it up and slid it down to the water."
Coltrane continued trying to catch bait, casting a Got-Cha plug and hoping for a bluefish, but his first catch was a Spanish mackerel. He reeled up the nearly dead jack and switched the baits out. The Spanish looked good swimming just below the surface, but Spanish mackerel aren't the most durable baits, and Coltrane wondered how long it would stay alive and keep swimming.
He never answered that question. Within five minutes, the king hit the Spanish and headed for the horizon.
"My reel holds 560 yards of 30-pound line, and this fish took more than 500," Coltrane said. "He did it quick too. Lots of times a king will run hard for a couple hundred yards and then slow, but this one kept going until it finally stopped."
Coltrane said the king fought pretty good, and it took him a while to get it back to the pier after the long first run. He said you have to be careful at Rodanthe Pier because there is one old piling about 200 to 250 feet off the end that sticks up to within a few feet of the surface and has a tendency to snag lines and break fish off. He was still a little miffed from losing a big king to that piling earlier in the year and was very careful working the king past it.
"That sucker fooled us too," Coltrane said. "When I got my first look as it came back in, I would have guessed it at 35 to 40 pounds. My fishing buddy, Russell Warren, thought it was smaller, too, and kept asking me why I was letting a little king pull me around like that. That's when it took off again."
Coltrane said he worked the king back to the pier again, and this time it was tired enough to come all the way in. When Warren dropped the gaff over the side, both men got a good look at the fish and realized they had seriously underestimated its size. Warren sank his gaff home, and called for someone else to put a second gaff in it and help hoist it to the pier.
"When they dropped it on the pier, everyone stepped back a minute and let its size sink in," Coltrane said. "We all knew it was bigger than we had originally thought, but still weren't thinking it was a 60-pounder. That was a really good surprise."
The big king pulled the pier's scales to the bottom, and they stayed at 60 pounds without a waver or bobble. Coltrane said that was good enough for him, and didn't take it anywhere else to see what those last few pounds might be. Still, this is the largest king weighed in North Carolina in 2016.
Coltrane's king was 61 inches long with a 27-inch girth. Using the formula accepted for longer, skinny fish like kings and wahoo of girth squared, multiplied by the length and divided by 700 (800 is used for full- bodied fish like tuna), the estimated weight was 63.5 pounds.
He caught the king on a custom rod he built for pier fishing, with an Okuma reel and 30-pound line. His rig was single-strand wire with a 6/0 nose hook and a pair of trailing 2/0 treble hooks.