LINCOLNTON , N.C. -- Darrell Harkey of Lincolnton has caught a lot of big fish during his 71 years.
A blue catfish of 39 pounds at Lake Norman. Eight striped bass weighing a total of 111 pounds during a special day at Lake Norman’s Plant Marshall hot hole during the 1970s. Even larger stripers at Santee Cooper in the Lowcountry S.C. reservoir’s glory days of the ’60s.
But never a “cat” of truly monster size. Until now.
A few days ago he outfought a blue catfish of 73 pounds.
To accomplish the feat, Harkey and his son, David, traveled to the lower James River in Virginia. The river is known for holding blue catfish of behemoth size.
The two boated and released sizable blues of 23, 37 and 40 pounds. Then came a special hit on Darrell’s cut bait, a chunk of herring.
“I knew right off this was the one,” Harkey said Tuesday. “I was using heavy tackle, but the fish was still about all I could handle. I tried to get my son – who is a marathoner and weight-lifter – to take over the rod and reel for a while, but he wouldn’t do it. He said, ‘You’ve been waiting on this fish all your life. You should catch it yourself.’”
For 45 minutes the elder Harkey battled the brute. Finally, he worked it close enough for David to carefully gaff it in the lower lip.
“I don’t know which was worn out most, me or the fish,” Darrell Harkey said with a chuckle. “It was too big for me to lift. I had to have David do it.
“After quickly shooting a few photos, we tied the big cat off the side of the boat to revive it a bit. When we set it free, I was tickled to see it swim away in pretty good shape.” Tom Higgins
Captive S.C. bears sent to Colorado sanctuary
Six black bears being held illegally in South Carolina have been rescued and shipped to safety in Colorado.
The animals, ranging in age from 7 to 23, were picked up Oct.7 in Spartanburg and Greenville counties by officers from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. They were allegedly being used for baying/baiting, a field trial activity involving dogs. SCDNR has never issued a permit for the field trial to be held.
“It was a pretty bad situation they were in,” said Pat Craig, director of the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado, where S.C. agents took the bears in a 25-hour drive. “But here they will be living as close to in the wild as possible.”
The sanctuary is home to approximately 300 large carnivores and omnivores. It generally is rated the best in the world.
Twelve arrests have been made on charges relating to the rescue of the animals. Observer News Services
• The boat Final Approach, owned by James Deyman Jr. of Southern Pines, was an easy victor last weekend in the annual Fall Brawl King Classic at Ocean Isle. The winning fish weighed 51.25 pounds. Second with a king of 38.60 was Team Onslow Bay, led by David Smith of Wilmington. Belmont angler Taylor Henkel’s Total Chaos took third with a fish scaling 36.55.
• The S.C. wild turkey harvest dropped by 11 percent last spring from the 2012 bag. According to the SCDNR, approximately 19,200 birds were taken. Officials are tracing the decrease to a drop in reproduction. A survey by the agency showed the top counties for harvest in ’13 were Abbeville, Cherokee, Laurens and Union.
• The N.C. Wildlife Commission will open its exhibit at the State Fair in Raleigh today with displays highlighting the diverse activities available across the state. Hours will be 3-8 p.m. today and 10 a.m.-8 p.m. all other days. There are numerous activities for youngsters at the exhibit, including a “magnetic” fishing pond.
• Over his lifetime, Jerry Almon of Charlotte has shot more than 75,000 registered targets in trap shooting. A few weeks ago he entered international competition for the first time, at the Tennessee Clay Target Complex in Nashville. Almon, a member of the Charlotte Rifle & Pistol Club, emerged after two days and 125 targets with the gold medal for the senior division. … The Charlotte Rifle & Pistol Club has added the name of Queens Universityprofessor Kara Wooten to its trophy wall. She recently scored her first 25 straight in trap.
Catches of the week
• A 23.6-pound king mackerel, his first, at Oak Island Pier by local lad James Lutz, 13. Older friends at the pier cut off his shirttail, a tradition to mark the occasion.
• A wahoo of 74.7 pounds during U.S. Open King Mackerel Tournament by Larry Pennington of Rock Hill. It took him 55 minutes to boat the fish in the event out of Southport-Oak Island.
• Red drum of 49.5 and 48 inches by Davy Crow while fishing from the Rascal with guide Norm Miller at Ocracoke Island.
• A 47-inch red drum at Ocracoke Island by Mollie Dalton of Lake Lure.
• A 9.7-pound sheepshead at Ocracoke Island by Edward Calvitti.
• A 4-pound flounder in the surf at Ocracoke by Sean Ingram of Rockwell.
• A wahoo of 72.3 pounds offshore of Ocracoke Island by Katherine Yourth of Midlothian, Va.
• A 41-pound wahoo off Hatteras Island by Kenneth Huneycutt of New London.
• A 54-pound wahoo off Hatteras by George Wilson of Wadesboro.
• A 75-pound wahoo off Hatteras by Daniel Everhart of Pfafftown.
• A 77-pound wahoo off Hatteras by David Hoskins of Bethesda, Md.
• A 25.7-pound king mackerel at Bogue Inlet Pier by Michael Thompson of Cary.