Untamed Lowcountry

World record pending: Hilton Head boat captain says this big fish is one for the books

The battle between fish and fisherman lasted more than two hours last week, and, at the end of it, a Hilton Head charter boat captain walked away with what he believes will be a new world record catch.

Brian Vaughn, of Off the Hook Fishing Charters, said he broke the International Game Fish Association world record in the fly-fishing 8-pound tippet class around 9:30 a.m. Sept. 20 by landing a 35-pound jack crevalle from his boat in the Calibogue Sound.

Now, he’s just awaiting official confirmation from the fishing organization.

The current record is held by a fisherman from Florida who caught a 31-pound jack crevalle in 1983, according to IGFA’s website.

Brian Vaugh_fitted.jpeg
Brian Vaughn, of Off the Hook Fishing Charters on Hilton Head Island caught a potentially record-breaking jack crevalle in the Calibogue Sound on Sept. 20. Brian Vaughn Submitted

Jack Vitek, IGFA outreach and education manager, confirmed that Vaughn’s application had been received. He said the verification process, which includes examining photos or video of the catch and testing the actual 10- to 15-foot leader, takes about two months.

That testing is an important part of earning the record, Vitek said.

“It’s not the heaviest jack crevalle ever caught,” Vitek said. “But Brian is applying for the heaviest jack crevalle caught by a male angler on 8-pound fly tippet.”

Persistence pays off

Vaughn, a 45-year-old who has been a fishing guide on the island for more than 30 years, has been chasing the record and saw a few disappointments along the way, spending up to three hours or more wrangling with a jack crevalle only to have it come up shy by a pound or less.

“I’ve come very close,” he said.

Still, Vaughn kept trying.

“I fish for a living, and I fish on my days off,” he said.

With the June-through-September jack season winding down, Vaughn knew when he got into his boat last week with fellow Hilton Head angler Raz Reid — who holds several IGFA world records for different fish species — that he might be running out of opportunities to break the record this year.

Vaughn said he got a bite about 7 a.m. and wrangled with the fish for more than two hours.

“We knew once it hit the deck that it was definitely big enough,” Vaughn said.

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Jack crevalle are not good to eat, he said, so catching them is about the sport.

“The jacks are, in my opinion, hands down, the best and strongest you can catch on a fly rod in the state,” Vaughn said.

The boat captain releases jacks after catching them, but the one he caught last week had to be taken back to land for an official weigh-in, he said.

More records

In July 2010, Vaughn earned the tripletail world record in the fly-fishing 20-pound tippet class when he caught a 16-pound, 13-ounce fish.

His next goal is another jack, this time in the IGFA 20-pound tippet class.

Breaking the 20-pound class record carries the potential to set a new state record as well, Vaughn said.

South Carolina records, maintained by the state Department of Natural Resources, do not take tackle into consideration, only the verified weight of a fish caught in South Carolina waters.

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The state record for jack crevalle set in 1993 off Charleston stands at 40 pounds, 1 ounce, according to SC DNR’s website.

“That’s going to happen if I keep at it like I’m doing it,” Vaughn said. “Just got to keep doing it.”

Fly fishing definitions

Leader: A transparent monofilament that connects the fishing line to the fly.

Tippet: Monofilament on the end of the leader that is nearly invisible to fish.

Source: active.com