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Tuna capsizes boat, drags fisherman into Pacific before Coast Guard rescue

By David Simpson, for CNN
updated 10:35 AM EDT, Mon July 22, 2013
  • Wounded fish dives off boat with line still around fisherman's ankle
  • Dramatic cell phone call to daughter alerts Coast Guard
  • Fisherman survives with minor injuries
  • Friends salvage boat and find tuna still attached

(CNN) -- Anthony Wichman probably rather would have told the story of the one that got away.

Instead, the 54-year-old Koloa, Hawaii, man won his one-hour battle with a 230-pound Ahi tuna -- but only after the fish nearly drowned him and left him clinging to his capsized boat.

The Coast Guard said it rescued Wichman by zeroing in on his cell phone signal about 10 miles southwest of Port Allen, Kauai, Friday morning.

While gasping for air, the stranded fisherman called his daughter, Anuhea Wichman.

She told CNN affiliate KHON her father hooked the tuna and got it onto his 14-foot boat after about an hour.

"He gaffed it once in the back, and the second gaff went straight into the fish's eye and that caused the fish to take a final dive. And he dove straight down, and the line wrapped around my dad's ankle and pulled him overboard," Anuhea Wichman said.

When she answered his phone call, she said, "All I could hear was him hyperventilating, and I could hear him puking." He managed to say "sinking" and "Coast Guard."

After that call, the Coast Guard reached him on the phone and worked with 911 operators to determine his position. A rescue diver dropped from a helicopter and helped hoist him aboard.

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Wichman suffered only a few bruises and a rope burn, KOHN reported.

Even better, two friends who arrived to tow Wichman's boat to shore discovered the tuna still was hooked and attached to the capsized vessel.

Wichman's family asked the fishermen to keep the tuna as a token of their appreciation, KOHN said.

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CNN's AnneClaire Stapleton contributed to this report.

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