Aroostook County veteran and friends reeled in one amazing trip

Published: Jul. 28, 2019 at 9:37 AM EDT
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A chance entry in a contest landed a group of military veterans from Maine one of the biggest fish they've ever seen.

Most fishermen only dream of catching something like a 350-pound blue fin tuna.

But, for six veterans, it became a reality - one they'll long remember.

The trip was made possible when Marine Corps veteran and Caribou resident, Shane Hill, entered a contest on a whim. It came as a big surprise when Kathy Granfield, of Veteran Angler Charters, notified him he'd won.

“I had heard that there's different organizations that take veterans out on these charter trips. And, having the fish bug as bad as I do, I wrote into one of these places, which is Veteran Angler Charters, and somehow they picked me and told me to get in touch with this captain, who in turn told me to pick five of my friends that are deserving that want to go fishing,” explained Hill.

Hill hand-picked the crew he felt he could spend a couple days with and off they went, joining Larry Tibbetts and his father, Captain Shawn Tibbetts, a Marine who operates Deep Sea Fishing Charter Maine, based in Saco.

“I had three Somalia vets and three Army guys there, you know, and it was the best group of guys you could possibly put on a fish that size,” Hill said.

Joining Hill on the trip were: Kevin Whitmore, Scott Hansen, Ed Aniolowski, Wayne Graham, and Jarad Carney.

“I had always wanted to go deep-sea fishing,” said Carney. “Never had been before, and Shane offered me an excellent opportunity - a trip of a lifetime. And it turned out catching an 86-inch blue fin tuna was even better.”

By license, the boat captain got to keep the tuna, which, dressed, and weighed over 250 pounds. But the vets didn't walk away empty-handed. In addition to the remarkable memories, they got to take home a lot of haddock filets from fish they caught on the trip. The tuna was caught in just under two hours about 12 miles offshore.

“They expected it to take us between four and six hours, but like I said, we had a fresh arm on the reel,” said Hill. “And that fish would give us six feet, then take another mile. He drug a 17 ton boat probably seven miles, from the time we had him hooked until the time we put the tail rope on him.

According to Hill, the boat captain sold the tuna, with proceeds being donated to a veterans' organization. Hill says this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience - one he's glad he got to share with fellow veterans.