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Well after a week of crappy weather and a couple of false starts, Saturday morning found us back to work with lows in the teens and the cockpit and rods covered in ice from the salt spray blown by 15-20kts of winds. With frozen wet hands from setting the spread our party watched me from the salon not about to budge from inside with the thermostat set to 71. These guys were from the SC low country where boots must be hard to come because two were wearing tennis shoes and the others were wearing loafers with cotton socks. I made the comment that they may regret their choice of footwear if we get bit but I do not think they took me seriously. They should have!

Shortly after sunrise I was up on the bridge with Shane listening to the radio and trying to get an idea of where we were and why, when we came across a good bait mark and Shane put us in a hard right turn. I had just turned to look at the rods when both riggers came down and spun the fighting chair 90 degrees to starboard and the planer on the same side came tight and pivoted in the rod holder. For a split second we had three screaming reels but only ended up with one after two fish got crossed up and cut each other off. With Don manning the rod with the fish I began clearing the planners and the party came scurrying out the door in their jeans and tennis shoes to help clear the remaining lines. After getting the rod in the starboard swivel holder and the cockpit ready for battle the guys soon realized why I had warned them about their shoes. With the fish stretched way out and the Penn 130 getting low on line Shane put her full astern! At first it was just spray being blown over the transom and water shooting through the scuppers, then we hit that one wave that sent green water pouring in the cockpit and I saw Don try brace himself and duck into it as water engulfed him and rolled off his raingear. The guy on the rod had nowhere to go and the water soaked him from the knees down and before exiting the boat the water had managed to claim both pair of tennis shoes, the loafers, and left buckets and poly balls adrift in the cockpit. All four guys got their turn on the rod and as the leader came into view I got on the reel, Don got on the sticks and Shane grabbed the spear (know to the rest of us as the harpoon). Much like the fish on Monday all went smooth until that last 100 feet. Just before the leader got to the tip he popped up behind us and calmly paddled way with what seemed to be a 2 foot sickled tail above water effortlessly and steadily taking line. It wasn't until then that we knew how big this thing was.

As Don once again tried to back down so I could regain line the fish spun 180 degrees and raced alongside the boat and out in front of us. With the pressure of over 40lbs of drag the rod snatched around in the holder and ran the main line across the outrigger lines as he tried get in front of us. I could hear and feel the transmission groan under the strain of being jammed full ahead from being in reverse. Shane stood helpless grasping his spear as Don (the owner) pulled a trick out of Shane's playbook and quartered ahead of the fish and spun that 60 footer on a dime and without hesitation made a quick sprint back to the fish and gave me the chance get several wraps of the leader around the reel and push the drag over the button to really put the heat on him. At this point the fish was about 25 feet away and neither one of us was making progress. With a few more hard fought feet of leader on the reel Shane slung The Stinger for the FIRST time, STRIKE ONE, the fish took back the leader I had fought for but a few minutes later I had the upper hand again. STRIKE TWO, (remember us Carolina boys are used to STICKING the poon not throwing it) this time the fish got mad and took all the leader back off the reel. However, with over 50lbs of heat on him I quickly had him back to the no-mans land of about 15 feet when it happened again STRIKE THREE! This time Shane retrieved "The Stinger" and launched it again. On the fourth throw it connected and the fish quickly pulled off about thirty feet of line. While a lot of people have had good success with the new halibut darts we found one flaw with them. When the dart and shaft were thrown into the fish the slim profile of the dart didn't let it pull off the shaft and turnover as Shane pulled on the harpoon line. Just like that the dart pulled out and thank God we still had the hook in him. After a quick panic I had the second Stinger rigged and ready for action. This time the fish got within stabbing range and Shane but that halibut dart through his gill plates. "Hell yeah" we thought it was game over but the fish had other plans. With another burst of energy he screamed off about 100 foot of line and as Shane tried to slow him with the harpoon line it went SLACK! The parachute cord that I had rigged the dart with had managed to break where it was clipped to the 3/8" line. With another panic and a few choice words we had the original Stinger rigged with another dart and with still plenty of fight left in him we managed to get this beast back to the boat where Shane again drove a dart through his gills. As the fish swung back toward the boat I got a gaff in his head and held on for dear life. After being harpooned three times that thing still fought us at the stern of the boat and made it very difficult to get the swimming hooks in him.

After resetting the spread and swimming him for awhile we managed to boat him and get a tape on him. At 95" we were a little surprised as we had guessed him at over 100". When it was said and done we were VERY lucky and grateful to have won the battle with what we all agreed was the meanest fish any of us had ever seen. We also learned some very good lessons like have cable on your darts. Despite everything that when wrong I feel like we handled everything well and having multiple harpoons, darts, and lines really paid off. The core weight was 400 pounds and we left it in Jason's hands to do with it what he does best.

As for the party, they had wet feet but could not have been more pleased with the day. As one guy put it, "it is the experience of a lifetime with a fish of a lifetime." It looks like the fish are finally here and we still have a few open days for what is shaping up to be an exciting 4th quarter. I know we have the 23rd open so contact Capt. Shane for details.

Sorry for being so long winded but I felt this was a story and fish that I did not want to try to paraphrase.

Morehead City Charter Fishing - Morehead City Offshore Fishing
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