Huge Amberjack That Ate Snapper Off Angler’s Line Breaks South Carolina Record

“I’ve caught amberjacks up to 80 pounds. But this fish was different — much stronger and larger than anything I’ve tangled with before.”
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South Carolina angler with state-record amberjack.
Jim Carroll with the new state-record amberjack; Carroll lies next to the huge fish for scale. Photos courtesy Jim Carroll

Fishing buddies Jim Carroll and Gordon Jobe left South Carolina’s Murrells Inlet around dawn on May 23 to chase dolphin and wahoo offshore. They were aboard Jobe’s 32-foot Edgewater boat, Liberty Call, and after a slow morning of trolling, they decided to move spots and change tactics.

“We trolled a weed line for dolphin and wahoo about 60 miles offshore for a while without success,” Carroll tells Outdoor Life. “Then we decided to run inshore to 100 feet of water and do some bottom fishing. It’s a spot we located last year that’s just a flat area without any kind of bottom structure. But it always produces snapper, triggerfish, sea bass and others.”

The anglers got to work right away using two-hook chicken rigs baited with squid strips. They were putting plenty of fish in the boat, but as they fished, one of them would occasionally hook a snapper or trigger, and then something bigger would hit, and they’d lose it.

“We couldn’t figure out what was taking our fish,” said Carroll, age 52, who lives in Myrtle Beach. “But about noon I hooked a snapper or something, and wham, a huge fish took my bottom fish.”

Anglers with large amberjack.
Carroll (left) and Jobe stand next to the amberjack after getting it weighed at a seafood market.

Photo courtesy Jim Carroll

It was a giant amberjack, and Carroll says he’s sure it ate a smaller snapper off his line and hooked itself. He fought the brute using a 7-foot stout rod and a Penn Fathom 40 reel loaded with 80-pound braided line.

“It was brutal. Really a tough, long fight,” he says. “I’ve caught amberjacks up to 80 pounds. But this fish was different — much stronger and larger than anything I’ve tangled with before.”

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After battling the amberjack for nearly an hour in deep water, the anglers decided to put their boat in gear to bring the fish closer to the surface. It’s a deep-water tactic that tuna and billfish anglers use regularly. And it worked for the South Carolina duo.

“There really was no reason that beast of a fish ever should have made it up to our boat, but it did,” says Carroll. “I got it boat side after it planed up to the surface, and Gordon gaffed it. He pulled it high up the gunnel, and I hit it with another gaff, and we both hauled it aboard.”

Angler lies next to huge amberjack.
A tired Jobe, who captained the boat that day, lies next to the amberjack after gaffing it.

Photo courtesy Jim Carroll

Carroll and Jobe knew right away that the fish was a state-record contender. They were still a ways offshore and out of cell phone range, so the two anglers used their inReach to contact a friend, who let them know the current South Carolina record was 123 pounds.

“That fish was almost as long as me,” Caroll says of the 72.24-inch-long amberjack. “The thing was huge. The fish didn’t struggle much at the boat. It was worn out, and me, too.”

The anglers kept fishing, catching some more bottom fish and smaller amberjacks. Then they headed back to Murrells Inlet and docked their boat around 4 p.m. From there, the two anglers took the amberjack to a local tackle shop, but the fish was too big for their scale to handle. So, they went on to Seven Seas Seafood Market, where the amberjack registered 129 pounds on a certified scale.

A processed amberjack with fish found in its belly.
Fish processors found a fresh vermillion snapper and two skates in the huge amberjack’s belly.

Photo courtesy Jim Carroll

That certified weight was later verified by Kris Reynolds with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, and the agency made Carroll’s state record official on June 29. The previous record had only been on the books for eight months.

“That amberjack was eating pretty good at that spot before I caught it,” Carroll says. “The loin fillets of that fish were as large as beef ribeye steaks. When they cleaned it [at Seven Seas] they found a 12-inch vermillion snapper in its stomach and a pair of skates, which are like stingrays.”