When you think about late summer nights in Edisto Beach, you might think of live music along the creek, a salty breeze and a sweet tea on the porch, or sea turtles in the moonlight. This July, something quite different captured the attention of this little seaside town at midnight. The promise of an estimated 117-inch long blue marlin arriving at the scales at The Marina at Edisto Beach stirred the crowds well after dark.
When the Glazed crew left the docks for their first day of fishing in the Edisto Invitational Billfish Tournament, they didn’t expect that it would be the next day before they’d be back at the marina. Owner and captain Miles Herring, and his sons Miles and Woods, were joined by Lee Tiller, Wilson Springs and his two sons Wilson and Adams, and Johnny Cisne and his son Helms. Little did they know, they had a long fight ahead of them, a battle that would certainly forever leave an impression on both the young as well as the more seasoned.
Later that day, Glazed called in a hook-up at around mid-afternoon. Experienced angler Wilson Springs continued to fight the fish as the rest of the fleet picked up their lines and made way for port. Much to the crews frustration and disappointment, the fish on the other end of the line never jumped during the arduous 6.5 hour fight. “I will have to say I have a newfound respect for a blue marlin. I have caught, and been part of catching, several over the years but never had one press on like she did.” said Springs. “She stayed straight down within 50 feet of the boat for most of the fight. We ended up with 30 lbs of drag on her for the last four hours.”
The crew didn’t get a good look at the fish until 3 or 4 hours into the fight. As they finally got the comfort of confirming that they did indeed have a nice-sized blue marlin at the end of the line, the fish remained relentless and unwavering. They had countless close calls — so many moments where the entire crew felt the thrill and pang of almost. “I would imagine we saw the double line knot come out of the water a hundred times and Lee put his hands on the leader 40 or 50 times,” recalled Springs. “Every time he tried to take a wrap, she would roll under the boat. For hours, Miles did a great job at the helm in keeping the boat off the fish. We thought we were going to have a decent gaff shot dozens of times but she would roll under, pull off another 50 feet or so and just hang there.”
No matter what they tried, whether pulling away from the fish, changing angles, or decreasing drag pressure, the blue marlin remained steadfast in the fight. During these moments, it’s not uncommon to get lost in the stress. The men of the Glazed did not fall victim to those troubles. They remained collected and didn’t even address the elephant in the cockpit — the size of the fish. “The entire crew was actually very calm and knew what they were supposed to do if and when the opportunity presented itself. It’s not like we did not have plenty of time to discuss and prepare!” Springs joked. “Everyone who enjoys our sport understands how many tasks, skills and good luck have to come together, simultaneously, to be successful. I can’t say enough about how well everyone performed through the fight.”
As the the minutes crept on after the sixth hour, the crew finally got the opportunity that would put an end to it all. Whatever happened next would result in a boated fish or a lost one. “My son Wilson had never gaffed a blue marlin. When Lee called for the shot the fish was as close as she had ever been, but she lunged forward about the same time. Wilson reached out and made a great gaff shot,” Springs recalled with insurmountable pride. “Then Johnny followed him up. The cockpit quickly filled with teenage boys, full of testosterone and anxious to get a hand on her and pull her through the door.”
The Herring and Springs families have been friends for over 50 years. They have enjoyed countless days on the water together, but none quite like this one. Add Lee Tiller and the Cisnes to the mix and you have a crew with an extra special bond. “The look on those boys’ faces staring at the fish laying on the deck was priceless,” said Springs. “We’re sharing the same opportunities with these kids as our Dads did for us and our friends. The older I get, the more hunting and fishing seems to be all about the next generation. We’ve all been blessed to see and accomplish some unreal experiences outdoors and we owe the same to these young folks.’“
The boys on the boat that day definitely experienced something special. Alongside their fathers, they enjoyed a beautiful ocean, a welcome rain shower, an unparalleled sunset, and a moment between man and beast akin to the lyrical beauty and wild brutality described by Hemingway and other greats. They got to live it as a family, a gift shared across generations. “With fishing, and everything else in life, some things just work out like we want, while many do not.” said Springs. “I can only thank God for the way he has blessed all of us – that fish and the sunset that evening were just a couple of his many reminders.”
As the Glazed rounded the corner of Big Bay Creek that evening and the marina finally came into view, the crew could hear the roar of hundreds of onlookers. Cheers rang across the nighttime still of the marsh to celebrate their arduous fight. And when the fish was officially qualified by Gov Cup staff and eventually weighed, the crew and the crowd looked on in awe. The fish weighed in at 505 lbs and went on to take first place in the category for landed blue marlin for both the tournament and the Series. She may not have been the largest fish other participants or even members of the Glazed team had seen, but that blue marlin nevertheless made for an impressive scene along the docks at the Marina at Edisto Beach. She commanded respect.
The Gov Cup’s stance is that such respect is paramount in sportfishing. Series rules require any landed blue marlin to be processed for consumption. After biologists collected scientific samples from the fish, Lee Tiller and young Wilson Springs got to work. Large steaks of meat, most of which will be destined for locally made smoked fish dip, were spread across numerous ice-filled coolers.
While Tiller and Springs showcased their knife skills, the rest of the crew readied Glazed for the next day of fishing. They only had a few impossibly brief hours before they’d have to turn loose from the dock again and head for the Gulf Stream.
In the quiet moments that followed, after the crowds left the docks for the comfort of their beds, the crew of the Glazed heard the echo of something Lee Tiller had shouted in the midst of the fight earlier that day. At the time, the light had begun to fade from the horizon and the crew had already experienced hours of tension and uncertainty. A profound silence swept over the cockpit as Springs slowly cranked on while his sons and his friends stood alongside him. In that moment, Tiller turned to those five young men on deck and issued a reminder that we all should hold close to heart: “Soak it all up boys, enjoy every minute. These things don’t happen every day or every lifetime!”
The Teaser is a series dedicated to showcasing the stories of the Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series and its lively community. The Gov Cup was created several decades ago to encourage the conservation of ocean resources through the tagging and release of billfish. Learn more here.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on South Carolina Wild are solely those of the authors, and do not reflect official policies, positions, or endorsements of activity or products by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.