The fishing trip on July 19 was supposed to be a simple family outing for 10-year-old Katelyn Turner of Charlotte and her parents Mark and Michelle Turner. The Turners were headed out on the family boat, Jaw Breaker, a 27-foot Contender named after Katelyn's grandfather who was a dentist, for her to catch her first dolphin. During the trip, Katelyn got the best of a 56-pound, 15-ounce king mackerel that was bigger than her.
The Turners left in the early morning and Mark caught some large pogies for bait just outside the mouth of the Cape Fear River off Bald Head Island. With bait secured, they made a 28-mile run to the Horseshoe, an area of small ledges and broken hard bottom that lies in 60 to 80 feet of water just west of Frying Pan Shoals. This area is known to hold bait and often has dolphin mixed with king mackerel from June through October.
"This was to be just a fun family fishing trip for Katelyn, Michele and me while Katelyn's brother Jackson was away at surf camp," said Katelyn's dad, Mark Turner. "We headed to the Horseshoe hoping Katelyn could catch her first dolphin. We hoped we would see some flying fish too, but it was supposed to be a relaxed morning.
"This was a bit of a sentimental trip too as the Horseshoe is a place my dad and I caught a lot of fish during the middle of the summer over the years, and this was our first family fishing trip there since he passed away last year," Turner said. "I believe he was watching over us and smiling, especially when Katelyn caught the big king. The action was hot as soon as we arrived and we caught a mixture of fish, including several sharks that approached 150 pounds."
Mark Turner said they had just gotten all the lines back out after landing a 20-pound false albacore when something hit the long rigger and began burning it down. This fish was screaming line off the reel as Katelyn helped her mom clear the other lines. When she picked up the rod, the fish may have slowed a little, but the reel was still howling as the fish took line.
"We didn't know what it was except it was strong and fast," Mark Turner said. "I had to turn the boat and at one time was on plane chasing it. This fish never really slowed until right at the end of the fight. It was one long hard run. We were thinking it was probably a 60-pound class wahoo that had moved in with the bait and warm water."
Mark Turner said Katelyn handled the rod and reel like a pro. She rested when the reel was screaming, then pumped the rod and reeled in line when she could. Finally she led the big king to the boat and Mark and Michele Turner each sank gaffs into it and drug it over the side. Several hours later, it tugged the scales at Ocean Crest Pier to 56 pounds and 15 ounces.
"I was running the boat and Michele gaffed it first," Mark Turner said. "When she stuck it, I left the wheel to take a look and decided we should use a second gaff on this big fish. She probably had it gaffed well enough to hold, but I didn't want to take a chance on losing a fish this big after Katelyn had fought it so well."
Mark Turner was pretty close on the 60 pound class part, but he missed the species completely. It was a short fat king, not a long skinny wahoo, even though it had the speed and endurance normally associated with wahoo.
"I don't think Katelyn realized how big it was when we first got it in, but Michele and I were real excited for her," Mark Turner said. "She has since realized it is a big deal and has picked a spot on our fishing wall for her citation and picture. An added bonus for her is that it made her brother Jackson, who loves to fish, really jealous.”