11.34-pound pompano dolphinfish is also pending world record
While fishing with Salt Fever Guide Service out of Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., 18-year-old Charlie Noonan of Sumter, S.C. caught the North Carolina state record pompano dolphinfish. The fish is also a pending world record. The young angler caught the fish during the evening of June 8, 2022 while 42 miles offshore.
Noonan’s fish weighed 11.34 pounds, which is about 3 pounds heavier than the current IGFA world record. Capt. Tyler Hailey was running the charter with First Mate Bailey Auten aboard the Glory Daze, a Freeman Boatworks Catamaran, when Noonan caught the record fish.
Pompano dolphinfish are frequently caught in other parts of the globe, but somewhat rarely off the North Carolina coast. The fish does resemble its cousin, the more popular mahi mahi, which is commonly called dolphin or dolphinfish. So it’s possible for some lesser-experienced anglers to catch one and think it’s just a small, odd-looking dolphin.
But Hailey thought the fish looked unusual enough that he made a mental note to check on it when he got the chance. He wasn’t positive, but he thought it might be the lesser-known species.
“We’ve been seeing an abandoned refugee raft offshore for a few weeks now. Numerous species of fish are always hanging around any type of floating debris, and that raft has been very productive lately. We saw a cobia, a tagged bull dolphin, and this fish under the raft when Charles pitched a ballyhoo to them,” Hailey said.
Taking a second chance
It was actually their second time of the day fishing around that raft. After fishing it without much luck that morning, they did some bottom fishing and caught plenty of snappers and triggerfish. After a full day of that, they began heading back in. But Hailey and Auten were pretty sure they could get a dolphin to bite for the young angler if they went back to the raft. The fishing trip was a graduation gift to Noonan from his family. And the Salt Fever crew wanted to make sure it was something to remember.
“We’d had a truly great day of fishing, with dozens of keepers of bottom fish. We knew if Charlie caught a dolphin, it would be like icing on the cake,” Hailey said.
Once they found the raft again, the record fish was ready to feed.
“Charlie pitched the ballyhoo toward the raft. The fish bit and the fight was on,” Hailey said.
Up until then, Hailey just figured it was a dolphin, but even during the fight, he noticed the dorsal fin didn’t look quite like it should.
“At first I thought maybe it was just a dolphin with bad genes. But I made a mental note to take a closer look once back at the dock,” Hailey said. “Charlie landed the fish and was grinning ear to ear.”
New state record will soon be world record
Once back at the marina, Hailey asked another Salt Fever charter captain to look the fish over. He agreed with Hailey’s suspicions that it was a pompano dolphinfish. And he said it was a big one.
After talking with NCDMF, they weighed the fish at Intracoastal Angler and met with one of the state’s marine biologists. He confirmed the species and helped put the paperwork in motion for the fish to be certified as the N.C. state record and the new world record.
“Charlie is a great young man and it was humbling and gratifying to be able to play a part in helping him catch his record fish,” Hailey said.
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