A pair of brothers, Anthony and Alex Ng have been grouper fishing for more than 30 years, but scored their largest gag groupers ever this year. Alex Ng, of Morehead City, scored first on June 12 with a 63 pounder while fishing with his friend Bradley Brown. Several weeks later, he was fishing with his brother, Anthony, when Anthony wrestled a 68 pounder to the boat.
These fish will not be considered for state records, even though both exceed the current 47-pound, 4-ounce record held by Breece Gahl with a gag caught off Wrightsville Beach in 2017. Anthony Ng is the former owner of Precision Auto Electric Reels and they were using electric reels. The brothers have a commercial fishing license and knowing the fish couldn't be considered for records, they sold them.
"We were 40 miles or so off Beaufort Inlet in 180 feet of water when my fish hit," Said Alex Ng. We had already caught a couple in the twenties, but I knew right away this was a big fish. I actually thought it was a shark or an amberjack for the first few minutes.
"It hit on the run and pulled around 100 feet of line off a reel with the drag so tight I couldn't pull it by hand. It made a couple of runs and then began to give up. Suddenly I saw bubbles and thought, 'Oh boy, here it comes.' I guess I was moving it fast enough it got the bends and blew up. Anyway it was suddenly at the surface and Bradley stuck it with the gaff. I thought it looked pretty big, but when Bradley called for a second gaff, I knew it was big.
Ng said once it was in the boat they looked at it and just began to laugh. Neither had ever seen a gag that large. They quickly took a couple of pictures, then slipped it into the fish box and continued fishing. Ng, who has caught his share of 30 pound gags and a few 40 pounders, said they guessed it would probably weigh around 50.
"It still looked big when we carried it to the scales at Chasin' Tails Outdoors, but we weren't expecting it to weigh 63 pounds," Ng said. "This is my fish of a lifetime and that made me even more excited."
Several weeks later, the Ng brother headed offshore to another rock in the same general depth, but a few miles away from where Alex had caught his big fish. They had caught a few grouper when a big dolphin swam by the boat and Alex, who was rebaiting at the time, picked up a spinning outfit and cast a bait to the dolphin. While Alex was busy fighting the dolphin, Anthony needed to rebait and instead of rebaiting his outfit, grabbed Alex's, which had fresh bait on it, and dropped it down.
"The bait had barely settled on the bottom on that first drop, when the big gag hit," said Anthony Ng. "I know now why they call them freight trains at this size. It hit moving and kept going against a drag I thought was locked down. It ran so far, I'm surprised it didn't nick the line or leader on the ledge and break off.
"There was no doubt this was a big fish," Ng said. "I've been grouper fishing more than 30 years and my largest gags weighed 42 and 43 pounds. The fight of this fish put them to shame. I wondered if it might be a big shark or a huge amberjack. When it finally rolled up and Alex gaffed it, I was amazed at its size."
No doubt there was some speculation at that time as to whose fish was bigger. Anthony Ng said they measured them and his was an inch longer, but looked thinner. The bottom line is they were both elated to have caught fish of a lifetime only a few weeks apart.
Anthony's fish was larger, weighing 68 pounds. Surely there is some brotherly competition, but both brothers are thrilled with their catches, even though they won't be considered for the N.C. state record. Alex's fish surpassed the current record by 15.75 pounds and Anthony's fish was 5 pounds heavier. These are indeed fish of a lifetime for the brothers.
The Ngs were using similar rigs. They fish double drop rigs made of 150-pound mono leader. There is a 3/0 3-way swivel at the top, then a main line down to another 3-way swivel at the bottom. Three-foot drops from each swivel extend to Eagle Claw 10/0 circle hooks at the end. They use the lightest sinker that will carry this straight down, usually 16 or 20 ounce, and bait with large menhaden, cut in half. 130-pound braided line attaches to the top swivel to bring fish to the surface.
NOTE: The current N.C. gag grouper record is 47 pounds, 4 ounces and is held by Breece Gahl with a fish caught off Wrightsville Beach last year. There are stories of two heavier fish caught in the past several weeks. One is reported as 48 pounds from off Morehead City, and the other as 50 pounds plus, from off Southport. The state record paperwork for the Morehead City fish is currently being processed by the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries.