Montauk has more world Rod and Reel fishing records than any other fishing town in the world. And now there is another one.
Last Friday, angler Thomas Cleveland, a mechanical engineer from Bay Shore, went out with his friend Dave Singleton aboard the Montauk Lady captained by Fred Shore and his mate Bob Adams. Then went to Coxes Ledge, 30 miles from Montauk.
“We were fishing for Blues,” Captain Shore later said. “But then I saw this group of monster guppies basking in the sun along the surface. I’d never seen anything like this before.
“I immediately had the mate replace the reels on the rods, using new reels with a smaller gauge line I had on hand,” said Shore. “I saw right away this was extraordinary. I looked up guppy in the rulebook. You couldn’t enter one with any line stronger than a 10-pound test.”
Captain Shore excitedly talked to Cleveland about what was going on, Cleveland and Singleton talked and it was decided Cleveland would make the attempt.
“You take it,” Singleton said. “I’ll watch.”
Captain Shore then had his mate put a worm on the hook, turned the wheel so Montauk Lady would drift sharply to port, and then motored over very slowly to get close without, he hoped, frightening the guppies.
Cleveland stood in front of his fighting chair, made a long cast with the smaller rod, then a second cast, then a third and the finally, one of the guppies wiggled over and took a bite.
“We got him!” Cleveland said. “It’s huge.”
Cleveland then took two steps back, settled down in the fighting chair and strapped himself in.
This particular guppy, however, was a fighter.
Although no longer than six inches—most guppies are about one half inch—he’d make these spectacular leaps out of the water, shimmying and shaking his sparkling gold body in the sunshine, trying to get free. Cleveland hung on.
Twenty minutes later, the Captain phoned Uihlein’s Boat Rental to alert Henry of what was going on. The Captain said he hoped they’d have the guppy within the hour, and that they would, with luck, be in by 4 p. m.
After that, the word went out. Record fish coming in to Uihlien’s. The whole town began to head down there.
Cleveland fought this guppy for more than an hour and a half. “It was exhausting,” he later told everybody back at the dock. “He’d race off one way, then race off another. I’d pull him in, then have to let him back out.”
The rest of the guppies had fled the scene as a result of all the commotion so it was either this one or nothing. One hour later, the guppy began to tire, and 10 minutes after that, Cleveland got him alongside where mate Adams, with a deft hand, was able to scoop the fish up in a net and bring him on board. But then the guppy leaped out of the net and began flopping around on the deck. It was a little frightening. Cleveland, and Singleton with him, scrambled below to get out of the way, leaving the Captain and the mate to struggle to get the guppy under control.
When the Montauk Lady came through the jetties at 4 p.m. with the four men beaming and raising their fists aloft in triumph, the crowd on shore responded with cheers and applause.
A hush fell over the crowd as Captain Shore, Marina owner Henry Uihlein and two mates carried the guppy, now dead, ashore in a bucket and put him on the scale. People gathered around. Reporters were there from all the local papers, also newsmen from Channel 12 and Channel 55.
“The weight is…” intoned Henry Uihlein, “0.641 pounds.” People cheered and danced around. “It is 2.4 inches long and 0.8 inches round.”
A string was attached to the tail of the fish and it was hoisted up on a crane. It glistened in the sun. Cleveland stood next to the fish with his rod and reel, on the other side stood Uihlein and Singleton.
“What are you going to do with the fish?” a reporter asked Cleveland.
“Have it stuffed and mounted, of course,” he said. “It’s not every day you get to catch a world record fish.”
All that has to happen now is for the International Game Fishing Association to approve the record.
The current record for guppy is 0.0522 pounds, posted by Guy Enrenrouk of Capetown, South Africa on December 12, 1966. Bye bye, Capetown.