Just one week after graduating from high school, 18-year-old Charles Noonan caught an 11.34-pound pompano that will likely shatter the current world record for the species. The fish was confirmed as a North Carolina state record, and Noonan has already submitted the necessary paperwork to the International Game Fish Association for world-record consideration.
Noonan, who lives in Sumter, South Carolina, caught the record pompano on June 10 while on a charter trip with Salt Fever Guide Service out of Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. He chartered the trip to celebrate his graduation from high school the week prior.
“It’s a pretty humbling experience when you get the opportunity like this, to catch a world record fish,” says captain Tyler Hailey, who was running the Glory Daze that day with the help of first mate Bailey Auten.
The trip launched Friday morning off the coast of Ocean Isle Beach, and the crew soon encountered an abandoned refugee raft a few miles offshore. Pulling up to the raft in the early morning darkness, they noticed a couple dolphinfish and a cobia, but were unable to get a bite and left to explore other waters.
Luckily, they decided to return to the abandoned raft soon enough. When they did, Noonan got a bite from one of the dolphinfish and fought it all the way to the boat. But when he and Auten brought it onto the deck, they didn’t recognize it as a pompano and believed it was a common dolphinfish, also known as mahi-mahi. (There are two species of dolphinfish: the larger mahi-mahi, which can weigh upwards of 80 pounds, and the much smaller pompano, which average around one to two pounds.)
Upon closer inspection, however, Hailey started to recognize the differences between the two species. Large pompano are often mistaken for juvenile mahi, and the captain says that when he took a closer look, “I thought to myself, something ain’t right with this fish.”
The crew brought the fish back to the dock at the end of the day and consulted with a few other anglers and captains. One of those captains was Anthony Woodward, who has plenty of experience catching pompano off the coast of the Carolinas.
“Anthony’s eyes lit up as big as you could imagine when he saw that dolphin,” says Hailey.
That’s when the crew started to realize the magnitude of the catch. They took it to a certified scale at the Intracoastal Angler in Wilmington, where it weighed 11.34-pounds. A biologist with North Carolina Marine Fisheries then came out to confirm both the weight and the species, and he also identified it as a pompano dolphinfish.
The pompano has already been confirmed as a new North Carolina state record. And if the IGFA accepts Noonan’s application, it will easily beat out the current world-record pompano, which is an 8.8-pounder that was caught in Maryland in 2008.