Likely IGFA All-Tackle World Record Vermilion Snapper Is About to get Eaten

The 9.26-pound snapper, if approved by IGFA, should beat the old record by nearly 30 percent.

Red Snapper
The likely new record beeliner. Jacob Felts

Florida Gulf Coast spear fishermen are used to running far offshore to get into the best waters for taking big hauls of bottomfish. So, when carpenter Jacob Felts, 30, and his dive buddies headed out for a long-range overnight bottomfishing trip using hook and lines some 150 miles offshore, it was no big deal.

They were aboard Brian Stone’s 42-foot Freeman catamaran named the “Big Nasty” powered by quad 400-horsepower outboards. And they were up and gone zipping across 1-foot flat seas on Oct. 7 staring at 4 a.m.

They started catching grouper at dawn, boating a big mixed bag of Warsaw, snowies, gags, and other bottomfish, plus a few vermilion snapper or “beeliners” as they’re called by many anglers.

“We fished 10 or 12 different spots, mostly natural bottoms and some spring holes, then moved inshore to about 125 feet of water where ‘beeliners’ are more common,” said Felts, of Adel, Ga. “That’s still 100 miles offshore, a place not many other recreational fishing boats work.

“I really wanted to catch a big beeliner because they’re so darn good to eat, almost like a hog snapper or hogfish.”

Felts hid a 10/0 circle hook in a big squid bait and sent it down about mid-day. Using a Shimano Torium-20 reel spooled with 60-pound monofilament line and an 80-pound fluorocarbon leader, he hooked another good fish that he thought was just a nice grouper – until he got it topside.

“I’d caught some beeliners before at that spot and wasn’t surprised to see the fish, but I couldn’t believe the size,” said Felts. “’Holy cow,’ I told the rest of the crew, ‘this is a heck of a snapper’.”

The anglers took a photo of the fish, put it on ice in a fish box, and kept on catching fish.

“We talked about how big that beeliner was that night, and none of us knew they even grew nearly that big,” Felts recalls.

The following day at the end of the fishing trip, the anglers loaded up their gear and headed to Sea Hag Marina in the nearby coastal town of Steinhatchee. Certified scales were there to officially weigh and measure Felts’ vermilion snapper.

Fortunately for Felts there was an official notary from IGFA who knew exactly what to do with the possible record vermilion snapper. They made plenty of photos and videos of the fish, with proper weighing and measuring.

Felts’ snapper officially weighed 9.26-pounds, with a 28 1/8-inch length and 17 ¾-inch girth.

The current IGFA All-Tackle world record is 7-pounds, 3-ounces, caught in 1987, off Mobile, Ala. by John Doss. Felts’ fish is nearly two pounds heavier.

“If it wasn’t for Kristin Skipper at Sea Hag helping us fill out paperwork and do the right things in weighing, measuring and preserving the fish, this never would have happened,” said Felts. “I’m really grateful to her.”

Felts is submitting all necessary documentation to IGFA, including leader, line and hook, and has talked with the record-keeping agency to make sure everything goes smoothly.

‘I even froze the fish whole, just in case something else is needed to document the catch,” he says. “I’d like to get a reproduction mount, because when everything is accepted by IGFA we’ll thaw it, fillet and eat it.

“My buddies are excited about eating a world record fish.”

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