Sumter native catches world-record saltwater fish in 2022


Whether it's strategic or plain luck, catching a world-record fish is a feeling no fisherman can ever forget, and one young Sumter native will remember his unbelievable reel forever.

Charlie Noonan was 18 years old when he went offshore fishing in June last year with his father, Buddy, who gave him the fishing trip after Charlie graduated from high school in spring 2022. The Noonans were vacationing at Ocean Isle Beach in North Carolina.

The saltwater view wasn't a new sight to Noonan then. He has offshore fished before, but it was the first time he went with Salt Fever Guide Service.

The day started early with their first stop at a Cuban life raft because fish often swam under it, Noonan said. He got a couple bites, but they continued 25 miles out and went bobber fishing and caught triggerfish, yellow snapper and more. His goal was to catch some mahi-mahi, but they couldn't find any. So, the crew back tracked.

"For not having luck catching any of the dolphin, they said we were going to stop right back by that raft," Noonan said. "We pull up, and we see what looks like two mahi-mahi. One is a really big bull dolphin, a really big male; it was already caught and already tagged."

There was a smaller one swimming next to it that wasn't tagged. Charlie Noonan went for it.

"I was the one that was reeling it," he said. "We get it in the boat, and the captain… he made a quick comment, and he was like, 'There's something weird about that.' That's all he said."

Noonan thought he had caught a small but common dolphinfish. Little did he know, he caught a rare species to the North Carolina coast.

The pompano dolphinfish is a species of surface-dwelling fish found in tropical and subtropical waters, typically seen in South American waters, according to Noonan's father. It is within the same family as mahi-mahi.

Noonan kept telling himself it was a mahi-mahi, but the captain of the boat, Tyler Hailey, thought otherwise. When they docked, Hailey got other guide service crew members to check the fish. One person told Noonan, "If that's what it is, that's the biggest one I've ever seen."

"I thought he was playing around," he said.

The Noonans got back to the house after the trip and were surprised by a text Noonan's father got from Hailey.

"He said, 'We could be looking at something very special here,'" Noonan said. "He knows for a fact that a pompano dolphin had never been caught from North Carolina ever because that would be a state record, and then he goes, 'This could possibly be a world record.'"

Vacation then took them to Wilmington to get the fish inspected by a marine biologist. Sure enough, it was a pompano dolphinfish and a world-record weight at 11 pounds and five ounces, Noonan said.

"The average of that fish is 2 to 3 pounds," he said.

Noonan described the moment as "insane" and something he didn't expect to happen. The next thing he knew, he got a certification in the mail, and the guide service got the fish mounted for him.

"Catching a world-record fish is really special," Noonan's father said. "Those fish don't get real big, but that one was significant."

Noonan was appreciative of his father's gift, an unforgettable fishing trip. He also thanked Salt Fever Guide Service's Capt. Tyler Hailey and first mate Bailey Auten for assisting with the world-record catch. It was the boat team who recognized what fish he caught and helped him get it certified.

"I'm no stranger to fishing," Noonan said. "I'm always trying to catch a good one, but it's going out and fishing for fun because it's something I absolutely love."

Noonan continues to fish often, mostly in freshwater. He is now 19 and studying biology at The Citadel.