MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - -- Marines have fought the Japanese, the North Koreans, the Vietnamese and currently insurgents in Iraq. But they never fought a 19-pound long-nosed gar, a predatory, scaly fish, and defeated the North Carolina state record - until now.
One Marine, Cpl. Sebastian Lankiewicz, with Headquarters Company, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, a former infantryman squad leader for Company I, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, defeated the North Carolina state record for the largest long-nosed gar fish July 29.
The Long Island, N.Y., native was bewildered when he saw a large-mouth bass floating in the Rock Quarry Lakes on its side. A larger fish emerged from the water and tried to take the bass under. Lankiewicz quickly realized that the larger fish was a long-nosed gar looking for an easy meal.
The former squad leader reacted instinctively by casting his line into the water, hoping his Rapala crankbait lure would catch the gar fish’s eye. The gar took to the lure and the war was on.
The beady-eyed fish swam away from the boat taking the 100 meter spool along with him. Lankiewicz struggled with his Shimano Stradic 2500 FH reel as he tried to pull the fish in.
“I couldn’t reel him in that easily and I felt he was going to snap my line,” Lankiewicz explained.
The struggle between the two lasted 20 minutes as the gar attempted to fight off the Marine. Lankiewicz worked his reel again and again, but the fish kept pulling away as the ten-pound line was pulled back and forth between the two. The fisherman steadied his sea legs on his small, red aluminum boat and his resolve to win the battle.
“I tried reeling him in at least ten times, and I had to drive the boat along him while he swam away to hopefully tire him out,” Lankiewicz said.
Lankiewicz turned on the motor and balanced himself as the fish frantically tried to escape. Each time the scaly mammoth was reeled in by the skilled fisherman, the gar would test the line by pulling away from its near fate.
“I wasn’t sure I was going to catch it, because the line felt like it was going to break,” Lankiewicz said.
Finally the fish was too tired to pull any longer and the 21-year-old angler dragged the fish up to the small boat to net him. The battle was almost over.
“I thought the gar was going to tear through the entire net before I could bring it onto the boat,” Lankiewicz said.
“A friend of mine took a picture of me with the gar when the Rock Quarry Lakes owner told me that I might have a record,” Lankiewicz explained.
Lankiewicz took his potential record catch to an outdoors store and had it officially weighed. The gar fish weighed in at 19 pounds, 10.5 ounces, beating the old official state record set in April 2006 by 2.5 ounces.
“I was quite proud knowing I caught the state record that day,” Lankiewicz said.
Lankiewicz qualified for the state record by following the anglers fishing guidelines on how to catch the fish, how it must be weighed, what kind of photo must be taken and where to send in the application for the state’s official record holdings. According to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission the fish must be positively identified by an expert from the and an application must be sent in with a full side-view photo of the fish.
Lankiewicz became famous that day and has future plans on becoming a professional bass fisherman.
“I wasn’t searching for gar that day. It’s not a popular fish for anglers. I actually love fishing for bass,” Lankiewicz said.
Lankiewicz has fished since he was seven years old, taught by his Poland-born grandfather. He fell in love with the sport and fished whenever he could as he grew up in the city.
“I loved getting away from the city and being in the outdoors. I’m an outdoors kind of guy,” Lankiewicz said.
Now he’s a local star among the North Carolina fishermen, but he believes anyone can catch record-setting fish, especially in the Rock Quarry Lakes.
“I know I’m skilled but a lot of it was luck. It could happen to anybody,” he said.
Lankiewicz still fishes in the Rock Quarry Lakes for bass and releases them as soon as he catches them. For him, it’s a passion and a sport.
“I don’t like it when people keep the bass, because it makes it harder on us who are into ‘catch and release.’ There are much tastier fish to take home and eat,” Lankiewicz said.
When the famed fisherman isn’t at work, he can always be found at those now-famous lakes, in his little red boat with its electric motor, hoping to be sponsored in the future and trying to catch a new record.