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Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda

June 3, 2011
Tred Dolphin Blog

Tred Dolphin Blog

Recently, a low-res version of the image you see here went viral among anglers on the Internet, spawning endless ­speculation and wild claims. Here, finally, is the real story from Tred, the man who was there. — Ed.

When Dennis Braid of Braid Products headed to Tropic Star Lodge in Piñas Bay, Panama, with my wife, Anni, and me, none of us had any intention of trying to set a world record. Matter of fact, the challenge never even entered our realities. Rather, the object of our trip was for Dennis to prove to me that, despite being wheelchairbound, I could still catch truly large fish like black marlin and yellowfin tuna by using Braid’s equipment and a specially designed roller-and-pulley system.

And by golly, he was absolutely right. I have the proof on video — captured by two cameras for The Best and Worst of Tred Barta on the Versus Network. After catching a big black marlin, I found myself right smack in the middle of a yellowfin feeding frenzy consisting of a huge school of 100- to 250-pound tuna. I caught one! Sure, the battle was ugly, but I did it. When all was said and done, I had to lie on a cushion on the deck behind the fighting chair to recover.

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While I rested, Dennis manned two rods with live, bridled skipjack and yellowfin tuna. Suddenly, the right rigger popped, and a 50-pound cow dolphin fought hard.

“That’s about the largest cow I’ve ever seen,” I said as the mate swung it right over my head. Then the left rigger clip exploded, and the 30-pound reel started screaming like a big marlin had left town with the bait. Dennis bellowed, “That’s the biggest #*%@ dolphin I’ve ever seen!”

While lying on my back unable to see over the rail for myself, I thought that was quite a comment from a man who has caught thousands of large fish in his life. Shortly thereafter, the largest dolphin I also had ever seen came on board. My immediate guess was that the fish weighed about 120 pounds! Dennis was at first uncharacteristically speechless, then conservatively estimated it to be “somewhere over 100 pounds.”

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At the dock, a large fellow (and I mean very large) hoisted the fish up on a scale and yelled: “Sixty! It’s 60 exactly!” Dennis walked away muttering something about the scale being broken, because anyone could see it weighed way more than 60 pounds. Since we were pressed for time to get our TV show taped, I urged Dennis to drop the subject and get back to work. The fish came off the scale and headed to the kitchen where the resort’s fabulous chef made dinner for everyone out of it.

Much later, it occurred to both Dennis and me that in Panama, they use the metric system. That fish had weighed 60 kilograms, not 60 pounds! That translates to 132 pounds, 4.43 ounces — and five inches of the fish’s tail was still resting on the ground while being weighed! Currently, the International Game Fish Association lists the all-tackle world record as 87 pounds even, caught in Papagallo, Costa Rica, by Manuel Salazar in 1976. I had the distinct feeling that this dolphinfish could have ended up like George Perry’s largemouth bass that has held the world record since 1932. Nobody would ever beat Dennis’ dorado either — ever!

Why didn’t we pay attention and officially weigh this great dolphin for an IGFA prospective all-tackle record? I have no idea. We were making TV, and celebrating my marlin and tuna catches. But I have no regrets. Well, that’s a lie. I do. The 64½-pound bull dolphin mount on my wall at home seems barely half as big as your fish in Panama, Dennis. I’m sorry!

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We ate the fish and never weighed it on an ­officially certified scale. Ergo, we never applied for world-record recognition. Woulda, coulda, shoulda. Oh well … no matter what, it was a magnificent dolphin!

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