Close Encounters Man vs. Nature

Fisherman rescued after huge tuna capsizes boat, drags him underwater

Anthony Wichman gets ankle tangled in fishing line when 230-pound tuna takes deep dive; he manages to free himself, use cellphone to call for help

A fisherman in Hawaii is lucky to be alive after the 230-pound ahi tuna he was fighting pulled him overboard, capsizing his 14-foot fishing boat and dragging him underwater when his ankle got caught up in the fishing line.

Fortunately for Anthony Wichman of Koloa, Kauai, he managed to untangle his leg from the line, cling to his overturned boat and call for help on his cellphone.

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Amazingly, the huge tuna remained on the fishing line and was subsequently reeled in by friends who were retrieving the boat after Wichman was saved.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, Wichman, 54, was rescued Friday morning from atop his capsized vessel about 10 miles southwest of Port Allen, Kauai.

Wichman had battled the big tuna for about an hour when he got the fish to his boat, according to CNN.

“He gaffed it once in the back, and the second gaffe went straight into the fish’s eye and that caused the fish to take a final dive,” Anuhea Wichman, Wichman’s daughter, told CNN. “And he dove straight down, and the line wrapped around my dad’s ankle and pulled him overboard.”

Once Wichman got untangled and climbed atop the upside-down boat, he was able to use his cellphone to call his daughter.

“All I could hear was him hyperventilating, and I could hear him puking,” Anuhea Wichman told CNN, adding that her father managed to say “sinking” and “Coast Guard.”

Subsequently, the Coast Guard reached Wichman on his cellphone and worked with 911 operators to determine his position. A rescue swimmer was lowered into the water and helped get Wichman hoisted into the helicopter.

The Coast Guard crew remained on the scene until Wichman’s friends—Jordan Ornellas and Abraham Apilado—arrived to salvage the boat. That is when they noticed the fish was still hooked up. Somehow the fishing line was connected to the capsized boat. Presumably, the fishing rod was secured in a rod holder.

Soon after, Wichman and the fish that nearly drowned him were reunited (as seen in the Coast Guard photo).

Wichman, who suffered a few bruises and a rope burn, didn’t keep the tuna, however. As a token of their appreciation, he and his family donated the fish to the two fishermen friends who salvaged his boat.

Photos courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard. 

on overturned boat