Samantha Thrower thought she hooked a lunker while competing in a youth fishing tournament held Father’s Day weekend by East Coast Sports in Surf City, Topsail Island.
The Knightdale 8-year-old reeled in and found there was indeed a fish on the hook, but it wasn’t the fish that earned her a two-and-a-half-foot-tall trophy. She had snagged on the same line a large blue crab that won first place in the tournament’s Largest Crustacean category.
“I’ve never gotten a trophy as big as hers,” said Samantha’s father, Tim, who began teaching his daughter how to fish when she was only 2 years old.
The blue crab’s shell was about six inches in diameter, according to the Throwers’ estimates. It was also very old, covered in thick, gooey sea slime.
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Samantha does most of the fishing herself, casting the line and even baiting the hook without any help from an adult. She was less eager, however, to handle this particular fruit of the sea.
“No, I did not touch it,” she said with palpable disgust.
She didn’t have to touch the crab to know it was a trophy catch before she even got it in her bucket.
“When she caught it, she was excited,” Samantha’s mother Michelle said. “She wanted to keep it. We were just kinda like, ‘Well, ya know, you might catch something else’ and she said, ‘No, no! Get the bucket! Get the bucket!’ ”
How did Samantha know she’d caught a winner? She explained that it wasn’t rocket science.
“I kept seeing people catch little crabs,” she said. “With my big crab, I knew I would get a trophy.”
Out of the couple hundred participants in the tournament, all under the age of 12, only four young anglers left with a trophy. In addition to Samantha’s trophy for the Largest Crustacean, there were also first-, second- and third-place trophies for the kids who caught the largest fish.
Samantha was pleased to be recognized as one of the four most successful youths in the tournament.
“It felt really good, I was very happy,” she said.
Tim and Michelle, who live at Topsail Island during the summer, hope their daughter pursues her maritime pastime for years to come, perhaps claiming several more trophies from various tournaments along the way.
“I take her out here fishing on the piers and she loves it, whatever it is that she catches whether it’s small fish or bigger fish,” Tim said. “She’s trying, in a tournament, to catch something decent where she has the chance to place in the top, or win something. That’s what you always want to strive for anyway.”
Samantha plans on competing in the annual Father’s Day tournament until she ages out. Her older brother, 15-year-old Hunter, has already moved on to higher level amateur tournaments.
In the meantime, she will continue to practice with her father on the Topsail Island piers – at least until the end of summer. After that, they’ll be back on the ponds and lakes of eastern Wake County.