After spotting a massive cubera while diving around an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, angler Braden Sherron knew he’d have to step up his game if he wanted to land a fish this big. The Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi student went home, spent a week testing and refining his build, and returned June 3 to throw three shots at a 137-pound kuber, heavy enough to set a record. spearfishing world news.
Sherron, who shares his spearfishing exploits on YouTube, first encountered the captor while diving for amberjack 60 miles off Port Aransas. It was his brother, a novice spear-fisherman, who spotted a large chub far below them in the water. Sherron dove for a closer look, careful to avoid spooking the fish. He got within range but decided not to shoot.
“I didn’t have a heavy enough build to put it on,” Sherron said Field & Stream. “Cuberas are known to shoot rather than sit, due to their strength and size. They tend to tear the spear and you can easily miss them. There was no way I was going to get the fish that day. It would have been a reckless experiment and it would not have ended well.”
Back in Corpus Christi, Sherron went to the pool to try some heavier spears on a higher powered weapon. “Kuberas are fish with super tough, very dense scales, so you need a bit of power to get them through,” he explains. “I have a big blue water gun for long shots and I was testing it with different spears and different tips.” It was mounted on an 8-millimeter spear armed with a sliding tip, a 5-inch head that detaches from the spear as it penetrates the fish, giving the angler a secure anchor with less risk of being ripped off. He also consulted with his spearfishing buddies to discuss shot placement and tactics. Prepared and with a game plan in mind, he returned to the platform with his brother on a mission to retrieve what was undoubtedly the largest kubera he had ever seen.
“Our weather window was only good for breakfast, so we didn’t have much time to do it,” Sherron recalls. “We did the long offshore race tied to the oil rig and I put on my wetsuit and packed my gear. I glided through the water nice and smooth.” As he swam close to the surface and looked down through the tubes and platform superstructure, he encountered barracudas and sharks, but saw no sign of the kubera. But after a few minutes, he spotted it, about 50 meters away and 40 meters below the surface.
“I think he saw me because he started walking away right away,” says Sherron. “Cuberas are known to be quite elusive. They are really smart and hard to get. I thought, Oh no, I grabbed this fish from here. So I swam out of the rig in the opposite direction of the fish, waited 15 minutes and then swam back into the rig to where I thought the fish had gone.”
Freediving is done without scuba gear, so the length of a dive is limited by how long the divers can hold their breath. Sherron says he tried to relax as much as he could, slow his heart rate and slow his breathing. He took a few deep breaths and sat back down next to the platform.
“On my descent, about 55 feet, I looked up and saw this huge barn door of a cubera shirt sticking out of one of the platform legs,” says Sherron. “I knew right away that this was a big, big fish and I was going to get it.”
He lined up his shot behind the snapper’s head, pulled the trigger, and watched the spear go through the fish. “It was just pure chaos from there. The Cubera took off, but thankfully wrapped itself around the foot of the oil rig, right where I had speared it, and pretty much fought itself off, which was the point. Since the ocean is 200 meters deep, I can’t go down to the bottom to sort out the fish. It worked perfectly.”
Needing a breather, Sherron surfaced and told his brother that he had shot the breaker. “My heart was beating fast,” he recalls. “I was trying to stay cool and calm because with these fish you don’t get them until you have them in the boat. I was trying not to celebrate too much.” He spent about 10 minutes slowing his heart rate, then dove and put two more spears into the fish to secure it before bringing it to the surface.
According to the International Spearfishing Association (IUSA), which keeps spearfishing records, the men’s speargun record for Atlantic cubera snapper is a 122.4-pounder shot in 2006 by Tarsio Storace. (The International Game Fish Association lists the all-species world record catch as a 124-pound kuber caught by Marion Rose on June 23, 2007, but the IGFA does not recognize speared fish.) Sherron says he didn’t know which one it was. record and had no clear idea what his shirt might weigh. “I just knew it was a really good kuber,” he says. “I thought it was maybe 80 pounds. I realized how big it was when I couldn’t get it into the boat myself. My brother had to get into the boat and lift it onto the gun. It took almost everything we had to get him in.”
Many spearfishers consider successfully harvesting a large walleye to be the pinnacle of the sport, he says. “It’s something of a dream to do, so I feel accomplished now that I’ve done it.” Holding onto the top spot in the IUSA book – which Sherron plans to apply for soon – would be an even bigger thrill. “I would equate it to shooting a 200-inch whitetail deer on public land,” he says. “It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime things and you can’t believe it when it happens.”