A fisherman says he is lucky to be alive after he was pulled overboard and nearly drowned by a 280-pound tuna he was trying to reel in off the coast of Hawaii.
Anthony Wichman, 54, was fishing about 10 miles southwest of Port Allen on the island of Kauai July 19 when he hooked the huge yellowfin, or ahi, tuna. Wichman’s struggle with the tuna pulled him overboard and left him clinging to his capsized boat, trying to get the fishing line untangled from his leg.
“He came to life quite suddenly and with a force, and jerked the rod out of my hands and took off with the line wrapped around my legs,” Wichman of Hawaii said.
The tuna, roughly the size of an NFL linebacker, pulled Wichman 50 feet under water.
“I had told myself that this was it. If he kept pulling there was nothing I could do,” he said.
With Wichman still being dragged and running out of air, the fish abruptly stopped swimming. Wichman was able to get back to the surface and call for help.
“Luckily, my waterproof cellphone worked and I first called my daughter and then called 911,” he said.
In newly released audio recordings, emergency responders zeroed in on Wichman’s cellphone to find the stranded fisherman holding on to his capsized boat.
“Oh, yes. I see you! You’re coming directly towards me,” Wichman can be heard saying in the 911 call.
“This is rescue helicopter,” an emergency responder said. “We have you in sight.”
Wichman suffered muscle damage to his leg following the struggle with the tuna.
As for the tuna, it was not the fish that got away. Wichman’s friends arrived on the scene shortly after the incident and found the half submerged boat with the tuna still attached to the fishing line. Wichman let his friends keep the fish and sell it for $1,400.
Wichman was thankful to the first responders and friends who came to his aid.
“Just to have people go out of their way was pretty good,” he said with tears in his eyes.