Kauai family describes fisherman’s fight for survival

It’s an amazing story of survival and it’s no fishing tale.

A Kauai fisherman had to fight for his life after a 230-pound ahi capsized his boat and dragged him underwater.

On Friday, 54-year-old Anthony Wichman was about 14 miles off shore, alone, and holding onto his capsized boat for dear life.

On Saturday, he is thankful to be alive with just has a few bruises and a rope burn.

The faces of his family flashed into Wichman’s mind, when he was dragged underwater by the ahi.

“In his mind, he thought he was dying, that he was gone. But he thought about his family, thought about his first grandson, which is my son. That was his motivation. He had to survive,” Wichman’s daughter Anuhea Wichman said.

Wichman had hooked the ahi and was fighting it for about an hour when he finally got it onto his boat.

“He gaffed it once in the back and once in the eye and that caused the fish to take a final dive and he drove straight down. The line wrapped around my dad’s ankle and pulled him overboard,” Anuhea said.

When Wichman was able to break free from the line, he pulled himself using his safety line onto the hull of his boat. With his waterproof cell phone, he called for help.

“All I could hear was him hyper-ventilating and puking. And through his breathing, he was able to say three words: sinking, Coast Guard, and buoy,” Anuhea said about the heart-stopping phone call she received Saturday morning.

The Coast Guard was able to locate Wichman through the GPS position of his cell phone.

Anuhea had also called some of their fishermen friends to help with the search.

“When the Coast Guard found him, I was still about three or four miles away. I could see the helicopter hovering over his position,” fisherman who goes by “Aba G” Abraham Apilado said.

When Apilado and Jordan Ornellas got there, Wichman had already been pulled to safety by the Coast Guard, but they jumped into action to save Wichman’s boat and gear.

Then they saw the fish was still on the line.

“We were both pulling the fish, put that buggah away first and continued salvaging whatever we could got all his reels and rod back to him,” Apilado said.

They were also able to tow Wichman’s boat back to Port Allen.

“It seriously is a miracle. Everything that could of went wrong went wrong. But at the end, everything that could have gone right, when right at the end,” Apilado said.

Anuhea says they feel blessed to live on an island where if someone goes missing or needs help, so many are willing to lend a helping hand.

They asked the two fishermen who came to his rescue to keep that ahi as a token of their appreciation.

Related Story: Boat capsizes after Kauai fisherman catches 230 pound ahi

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