It had been a couple weeks since the anglers of the 38-foot Edgewater boat out of Hilton Head Island, S.C. had been chasing king mackerel. And the water, bait and conditions were different than expected.
“We didn’t see a lot, it was a lot different than it had been two weeks earlier,” boat owner Jon Vroon told the Charleston Post-Courier. “It was kinda’ disappointing at the time, because you take a gamble and risk going to a location that at one time looked good. And we’re going in the opposite direction of where we’re going to weigh in.”
Vroon and his “Jon Boat” fishing team members Kenneth Nelson and Kenneth Crosby caught and released a few kings under 20 pounds. Then a bigger fish suddenly showed.
“Out of the blue, the biggest kingfish I’ve ever caught takes line,” says Vroon.
Crosby grabbed the rod while Vroon handled the boat, and Nelson got other lines and trolled baits out of the way.
“Sometimes you can tell by that first run how big a fish is,” says Vroon. “But you can really tell on the second run. Then when he runs again the third time like he ran the first time, you know you’ve got a fish on. We knew we had something, and we were trying to track him down.”
The anglers spotted the fish below their boat in clear offshore water and saw lots of color, a sure sign of a big fish, which was gaffed and hauled aboard.
“When we got that fish on the deck, we knew it was a bigger-sized fish but we didn’t know it was a 50-pounder,” Vroon reported to the Post-Courier.
“We put the fish in the fish box and were quiet for a while. We didn’t know what we had, but we knew we had something.”
A bit later after the fish settled down and could be safely weighed with a hand scale. The anglers got a not-official weight of the king somewhere between 48 and 52 pounds. That’s when they decided to run back to the tournament weigh state at Hilton Head Harbor Marina to officially weigh and enter their catch in the Hang Em’ High tournament.
At Hilton Head the fish officially weighed 50.4-pounds, a giant of a kingfish that set the tournament record for the two-year old event.
But despite the fish’s massive weight, Vroon was too sure about winning.
“When you’re fishing against 40 of the best kingfishing guys in the Carolinas, you expect that if you caught a 50 then they can catch a 50,” he explained. “That was always in the back of my mind. It wasn’t until the end of the weigh-in and there wasn’t a boat coming down the creek that it set in. Holy Cow! We did it!”
The 50.4-pound king mackerel paid the “Jon Boat” crew $109,000 for the heaviest kingfish caught by participants in the Hang ‘Em High tournament.