There are fish stories — and then there’s the tale that angler Anthony Wichman will be telling for years to come.
The 54-year-old Hawaiian was casting for tuna last week alone in his 14-foot Livingston skiff about 10 miles southwest of Port Allen, Kauai.
He had hooked a 230-pound yellowfin tuna and was fighting it for about an hour before he got it to the side of his boat, his daughter told Honolulu TV station KHON.
“He gaffed it once in the back and once in the eye, and that caused the fish to take a final dive and he drove straight down. The line wrapped around my dad’s ankle and pulled him overboard,” Anuhea Wichman said. His boat capsized.
When Wichman broke free from the line, he used his safety line to pull himself onto the hull of his boat and used his waterproof cellphone to call his daughter.
“All I could hear was him hyperventilating and puking. And through his breathing he was able to say three words: sinking, Coast Guard and buoy,” Anuhea Wichman said.
“In his mind he thought he was dying, that he was gone. But he thought about his family, thought about his first grandson, which is my son. That was his motivation. He had to survive,” she said.
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The Coast Guard was able to locate Wichman through the GPS position of his cellphone. A Dolphin helicopter crew from Air Station Barbers Point flew to the scene and found Wichman sitting on the hull of his partially submerged boat. A rescue swimmer was lowered to the water and hoisted Wichman into the helicopter. He was taken to a local hospital and discharged shortly afterward.
The crew of a Coast Guard motor life boat stayed with the capsized boat until Jordon Ornellas and Abraham Apilado, who are local fisherman and friends of Wichman, arrived with a boat to help salvage his vessel. While they were deciding whether they could right the capsized boat, Ornellas and Apilado realized that the tuna was still hooked on the fishing line attached to the boat.
“We were both pulling the fish, put that buggah away first and continued salvaging whatever we could. Got all his reels and rod back to him,” Apilado told KHON 2 News.
They also were able to tow Wichman’s boat back to Port Allen.
“It seriously is a miracle. Everything that could have went wrong, went wrong. But at the end, everything that could have gone right went right,” Apilado said.
Wichman asked his two friends to keep the tuna as a token of his appreciation.