Like most fish, kingfish, or king mackerel, are minuscule at birth, closely resembling tadpoles with their large heads and tiny bodies. From then on, however, the King Mackerel grows at a shocking speed, and though most specimens reach full size at around 24-30 inches in length, some grow to far greater sizes. The colossus of the mackerel family, the largest known kingfish was an astounding 72 inches long and weighed nearly 100 pounds.
So while fishermen who enter the Hang ‘Em High Kingfish Invitational in Hilton Head, South Carolina, can largely expect to reel in medium-sized fish, they know to be prepared for anything. The stakes are high in Hilton Head, as the entry fee is a whopping $5,000 per team. The prize, however, is equally staggering, with the winner pocketing a cool $100,000.
For Kenneth Crosby and his fellow “Jon Boat” crew members, Jon Vroon and Kenneth Nelson, the allure of the enormous prize was worth the risk. After all, they had already won $8,000 in another fall fishing tournament. So, technically, even if they lost, they would still be $3,000 richer than they were in the summer.
“It was kind of hard not to sign up for Hang Em’ High, a 40-boat invitational, when you have house money already,” Vroon explained to The Post and Courier. So the three-man crew set off from Hilton Head Island and began the hunt for a giant kingfish.
Fishermen Reel in Massive 50-Pound Kingfish
Scouring the South Carolina waters, the trio reeled in mackerel after mackerel, but each one weighed in under 20 pounds. Though a more than respectable haul for an average day of fishing, these average kingfish simply didn’t make the cut for Hang ‘Em High tournament.
“We didn’t see a lot, it was a lot different than it had been two weeks earlier,” Jon Vroon recalled. “It was kinda disappointing at the time. Because you take a gamble and risk going to a location that at one time looked good. And we’re going in the opposite direction of where we’re going to weigh in.”
Just as they were about to lose hope altogether, however, a monstrous fish took interest in their bait. “Out of the blue, the biggest kingfish I’ve ever caught takes line,” Vroon said.
A few moments and a great deal of effort later, the men hauled the giant fish onto the deck. They weren’t sure of its exact size, or if it was even big enough to be a contender, but they knew it was by far the biggest they’d seen all day, at the very least. After weighing their options and trying and failing to catch another king-size kingfish, they decided to return to the Skull Creek Boathouse to get an official weight.
To their shock and delight, the kingfish weighed in at 50.4 pounds. The mammoth fish was not only the winner of the Hang ‘Em High Invitational but the largest fish caught in the tournament’s history. After a rollercoaster of a day, the “Jon Boat” crew took home $109,000 in prize money.
“It wasn’t until the end of the weigh-in and there wasn’t a boat coming down the creek that it set in,” Vroon said. “Holy Cow! We did it!”