Toby Grantham of Knightdale broke a state record in May by reeling in a 46-pound African pompano off Atlantic Beach, beating the previous record by more than 5 pounds, according to the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries.
Grantham was fishing over the shipwreck of a scuttled Coast Guard ship on Capt. Dave Tilley’s 100-foot Continental Shelf using an MC Works rod and Shimano Stella 10000 SWB reel with a vertical jig lure. He was standing next to Milton Boyd, the boat’s cook, who likes to fish when he has a spare moment.
Grantham, 40, was in the same spot on the same boat next to the same man the last time he broke a state record in 2012, for catching a 27-pound, 1-ounce scamp in the same waters.
“I’m just fortunate because it’s a big ocean and there are so many people that fish out of Morehead City,” he said. “I’ve only been offshore fishing for three years, and to catch two fish like that, it’s lucky.”
And unusual. Grantham is the only fisherman to hold two state records for largest fish; there are 67 anglers who hold one.
“A state record catch is a rare event as it is,” said Carole Willis, the Division of Marine Fisheries’ sportfishing specialist.
Grantham, a Dunn native, started fishing with his father as soon as he was able to walk. His father is a commercial fisherman, and he manages the family’s seafood restaurant in Dunn, Jim’s Seafood Fresh & Fried.
After a hiatus during college, Grantham returned to fishing about six years ago and has spent much of his time on Captain Tilley’s boat. When he caught the African pompano, it was not what he expected.
“I fully expected to hook another amberjack,” he said. “They school, and then when they get real excited they pretty much eat anything, so I’d caught five or six in a row.”
But this fish didn’t fight like an amberjack, he said.
“When it came up to the surface and laid on its side I was pretty stoked,” he said. “I knew immediately it was a trophy-size fish.”
During Grantham’s first record-breaking experience, he didn’t have the same sense of certainty.
“It was about 2 in the morning when we caught that fish and we got him on the boat, threw him on the deck, and Captain Dave and the mates were really surprised at how big it was,” he said. “I just tossed my line right back in the water to catch something else. I didn’t really understand the significance of the fish.”
The African pompano was different, he said.
“I was excited because I pretty much knew immediately when it came onto the boat that it would be close,” he said. “It’s a different type of feeling the second time.”
The previous state record for an African pompano was 40 pounds, 10 ounces, caught in 2003 off Southport, according to the Division of Marine Fisheries.