Coast Guardsman spears world record in Kodiak

Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Joca, the engineering and maintenance branch chief at Coast Guard Base Kodiak, displays his 13 pounds 3 ounces, world record, starry flounder on Sept. 24, 2013, in Kodiak, Alaska. The previous world record starry flounder weighed in at 10 pounds 9 ounces. U.S. Coast Guard photo by courtesy of Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Joca.

Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Joca, the engineering and maintenance branch chief at Coast Guard Base Kodiak, displays his 13 pounds 3 ounces, world record, starry flounder on Sept. 24, 2013, in Kodiak, Alaska. The previous world record starry flounder weighed in at 10 pounds 9 ounces. U.S. Coast Guard photo by courtesy of Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Joca.

On the morning of the Aug. 24, Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Joca, the engineering and maintenance branch chief at Coast Guard Base Kodiak, and his friend set out to enjoy a day full of recreational spear-fishing. Joca, a relative newcomer to Kodiak, Alaska, expected to bring home fish that day, but what he did not expect was to also bring home a world record.

The pair set out to Monashka Bay, just north of the city of Kodiak, in hopes of spearing halibut.

“Not very many people have speared halibut,” said Joca. “But there are a handful of people, one speared here a few years ago that was over one hundred pounds, and there is a guy out in Southeast Alaska that claims to have speared halibut over 200 hundred pounds.”

While they had their hearts set on halibut, they certainly weren’t ruling out any other species of tasty Alaskan fish.

Equipped with just a wetsuit and spear-gun in typical free dive fashion, Joca said they spent most of the day successfully harvesting pink salmon, rockfish and flounder near a rock formation across the bay, all the while being shadowed by a female sea lion. On his last trip out across the bay, he spotted a sizeable flounder.

“I saw this huge flounder,” Joca said. “So I shot it, secured it, and from what I knew about the species I knew this was larger than usual.”

Like halibut, starry flounder are a species of seabed dwelling flat fish found commonly in the waters between California and Korea. The last world record starry flounder caught was just 10 pounds 9 ounces, although fishermen have claimed to bring up to 20 pound starry flounder in their fishing nets.

The record fish Joca landed weighed in at 13.2, while the other starry flounder speared that day weighed roughly 5 pounds.

The International Game and Fish Association maintains all types of fishing world records while the International Underwater Spearfishing Association specifically records world records set by the various types of spearfishing, in which the process of certifying a record fish includes: a witness to the catch, weights taken on certified scales and pictures of the catch with proper measurements. Joca went through the process and worked with a local seafood processor to officially weigh the fish and send the validated information to the IUSA.

Joca had only been on the island for a little over a month and a half when he broke this world record, but he has been spearfishing for about 10 years. He said that this particular world record fish wasn’t the hardest fish he has ever shot.

“To be honest, it was in fairly shallow water, about 15 feet, and the visibility was really good,” said Joca. “But I knew enough about the fish to know that it was a possible world record when I shot it. Sometimes it just goes to show that it is better to be lucky than be good.”

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