Cantey Smith of Mount Pleasant joined up with some friends to go bottom fishing offshore and reeled in a fish that ties a South Carolina state record. Smith is in his 50s and has fished all over North America and in several foreign countries but it took an Aug. 3 trip out of his home port to tame the 48.5-pound gag grouper and reel in the fish of a lifetime.
|Captain Legare Smith and angler Cantey Smith display the record gag grouper.|
Fishing on the 54-foot boat called Artemis were owner John Darby, Captain Legare Smith and first mate Ford Rivers. Anglers Cantey Smith, Billy Baldwin and McKenzie Hutaff from the Charleston City Marina were along for the ride.
The boat made several stops at live bottom locations around 45 miles offshore. Despite having to fight off multiple amberjacks (which offer no table value) the trip was already a big success yielding triggerfish, vermillion snapper and grouper. The fateful final stop of the day in waters 150-feet deep.
Angler Cantey Smith uses a Shimano deep water jigging rod and a Shimano reel spooled up with 80-pound test mono. He dropped down his offering, a 3-ought circle hook baited with a live menhaden and was greeted with a fish strike that doubled over his rod.
"Usually the main part of a grouper fight is right after the bite, when you try to muscle him out of the rocks that he calls home," said Smith. "This fish continued to fight like a champ all the way up to the surface, so I never really knew if I would land him."
When the fish broke the water's surface, the crew got the big fish aboard, and it was easily the biggest gag grouper any of them had ever seen.
Upon arriving back at port, Smith went through the process to establish a state record fish. He weighed it on certified scales at Haddrell's Point West tackle shop, and then he brought the fish to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources for species verification. The certified state record document is forwarded to Gov. Nikki Haley to be signed. Pending that signature this record-tying gag grouper record will be official. Smith's gag grouper matches the existing South Carolina state record for gag grouper, caught by angler R.L. Price in 1997.