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Old 06-18-2007, 12:11 PM   #1
scubapro5
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Default Diver lands world record fish

Diver lands world record fish

01:00 AM EDT on Saturday, June 16, 2007

By TOM MEADE

Journal Sports Writer



Dan O?Neil, of East Providence, with the 65.1-pound striper he shot with a speargun.
COURTESY of DAN O?NEIL COURTESY of DAN O?NEIL
This is the week of the trophy striper.

Yesterday morning, free diver Dan O?Neil, of East Providence, shot a bass weighing 65.1 pounds, a world record pending approval of the international sanctioning organization.

Wednesday evening, angler Bill Nolan of Warwick caught a 60.4-pound striper, just days after he landed a 51-pounder.

The big bass are preying on schools of adult menhaden, called bunker or pogies, locally. The baitfish have been concentrating in the upper reaches of the Bay, and they have been appearing in large numbers, attracting trophy stripers, said Nolan. ?Once they?re on the bunker, they don?t want anything else,? he said.

O?Neil shot his trophy striper around 7:30 a.m. in 30 feet of water off Jamestown. ?I was with my buddy, Bob Tamboe,? he said. ?We were looking at the water and questioning whether it was worth [diving]. There were some pretty big rollers coming in, it was cloudy, and the visibility underwater was in pockets; other areas were worse. But right away we were seeing a lot of schoolies (small stripers).?

Free divers hunt without the benefit of compressed air to breathe. They must surface for air between dives, or ?drops.?

?On my third drop, I saw a 30-pounder, a nice fish,? O?Neil said. He shot the bass cleanly with his spear gun.

After subduing the fish, he got his gear back together, and seven dives later, he spotted the 65-pounder. ?It was on the edge of my field of view,? he recalled, ?so it was probably 10 to 12 feet away.

?I shot, and got it right in the gill plate. It didn?t stick as far in as I would like, but I was able to hold on to it.?

O?Neil surfaced, and the bass towed the 200-pound diver for more than 10 minutes. The fish finally surrendered, and O?Neil brought it to the surface.

At Zeek?s Creek Tackle shop, the bass weighed 66 pounds on a scale that was not certified. He was going to bring the fish to another shop, but its scale would only go to 50 pounds, so O?Neil brought the bass to Snug Harbor Marina where the striper weighed 65.1 pounds, nearly 5 pounds over the current world record, set in 2005 and sanctioned by the International Underwater Spearfishing Association.

O?Neil?s fish was 53 inches long and had a 31-inch girth.

He has landed several 40-pound stripers, but, he said, ?I never got a 50-pounder. I still haven?t. I?ve got the 60, but never a 50.?

Nolan caught his 51-pounder Monday evening on menhaden. ?More and more bunker seem to show up every day,? he said. ?I am amazed at how good this season has been. The bass are holding tight and do not seem to be in any hurry to go anywhere.?

Wednesday, he was fishing menhaden chunks with charter boat skipper Jim White. ?All of a sudden,? he said, ?my rod doubled over, and next thing I know I am sliding a 60-pound bass over the gunwale. What a week: a 50-pound fish and a 60-pound fish within a few days of each other!?

?That?s a 47-, a 51-, and a 60.4-pounder in less than three weeks,? said White. ?The kid is good. No doubt about it.?
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