18-year-old catches winning marlin (video)
July 21, 2012 at 2:21 a.m.
Updated July 22, 2012 at 2:22 a.m.
PORT O'CONNOR - The biggest blue marlin at the Poco Bueno Fishing Tournament was reeled in by an 18-year-old high school graduate from Portland.
Ryan Smith, in his first time to fish Poco Bueno, snagged a 493.5 pound, 112-inch marlin on the boat Dona Ken, of Seabrook. It was captained by Ken Porter.
"I guess I've always had pretty good luck, but this is a bit more than just luck," Smith said. "It is a lot of hard work, and we knew what we were doing. I've been fishing since I was 5 and my dad has been fishing since he was 15."
But this time the luck came with hard work.
"It put up quite a fight," Smith said of the 30-minute battle to pull in the fish. "We were next to an oil rig and we were like, 'Is she getting too close to the rig?' But we kept her away from it and we got her."
With spectators wanting his photo and congratulating him, Smith said he felt famous after winning the tournament.
His mother, Melissa Smith, was excited, but not too surprised by the catch.
"We call him the 'Golden Child' because everything he does, he is good at," she said, shaking her head, smiling and snapping pictures of the dangling fish.
They reeled the marlin in at about 1:30 p.m., 120 miles offshore.
But his mother wasn't sure of the complete picture when he called to tell her about the catch.
The phone was cutting out when they got the call about the catch. All his mother could hear was they were still pretty far out.
"I hoped they were going to make it in. We were concerned they weren't going to make it on time," she said.
Tournament officials were not sure if he was the youngest to ever catch the winning marlin, because the winners are recorded by boat, not individual fishermen.
Smith thinks the winning purse this year is $900,340, but was not sure how much of that he would get.
"At first, we caught a dolphin and we were hoping we would get our money back with our dolphin," he said. "And then we pulled in the marlin and we were like, 'This is great, this is an annual income now.'"
Though Smith said he has caught marlin before, this is definitely his biggest.
Coming in at second place in the offshore competition was Hydrocarbon, with angler Clay Coan pulling in a blue marlin weighing 446.5 pounds and measuring 105 inches long. It was also the first marlin caught in the tournament.
And, for the first time in Poco history, another fish caught on Friday tied in weight with Hydrocarbon.
Caught by Matt Reed, on the boat Cuz We Can, the marlin weighed exactly 446.5 pounds and was 104 inches long.
"I've never seen it before, but after a tie at weigh-in, it goes to length," Walter Fondren, whose father founded the tournament, said.
Making it to the weigh station Friday night with two minutes to spare, Cuz We Can took third place, one inch behind Hydrocarbon.
The 2,000-3,000 people in the crowd were so eager to see the fish at weigh-in that a nearby dock collapsed under the weight of too many observers crowding to the front.
Many people fell in the water, but no one was injured, said Mark Daigle, chief deputy at the Calhoun County Sheriff's Office.