A Sullivan's Island chef is celebrating a new state record for a Gag Grouper — 54 pounds, 4 ounces — that he's sharing as a delicacy with friends.
Jim Lasher, chef and pitmaster at Home Team BBQ, caught the whopper 40 miles off Charleston on May 1 in 160 feet of water.
The record was confirmed by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, breaking the old mark of 48 pounds, 8 ounces recorded on two fish that weighed the same, the most recent one being caught in 2013.
Lasher's group was out with Captain Ben Floyd of charlestonfishfinder.com. They're friends who sometimes fish together and enjoy time offshore.
"He's a buddy of mine," Lasher said.
Floyd's boat, "Renegade," is a 27-footer kept at the Isle of Palms Marina.
The day had been going well with about 20 Mahi-mahi landed. But Lasher kept bugging Floyd to try for grouper since it was the first day of the 2018 season.
"I was a little more insistent than anyone else," he said. "I stayed in Captain Ben's ear most of the day."
He agreed and they dropped a deep line.
When the jig was yanked, Lasher hoped it would be a monster.
"We knew it was big grouper or a big snapper," he said. They fought for 10 minutes before the grouper headed for rocks.
"Somehow we got him to come out, and he came up," Lasher said.
The whole fight lasted 20 to 25 minutes, he said.
Kayla Rudnay, wildlife biologist with the DNR, confirmed the weight. The catch is one of multiple types of grouper found in South Carolina coastal waters.
Biological samples were taken that will help with managing the species. She did not know if there is a specific reason why this fish was a record. It could be as simple as man's technology has made it easier to go after the bigger fish farther out and in deeper waters, she said.
The fish produced at least 30 pounds of meat.
Lasher smoked the head and made tacos while sharing the meat with others, too, he said, adding that it was all done with respect to the fish.
He may do a replica mount or some life-sized prints to remember the catch.