A BRITISH angler who was inspired by the legendary John Wilson has just completed the remarkable landmark of catching 200 fish weighing over 100lb.
Martin Hodgkinson, from Wolverhampton, has spent the last 17 years on a globetrotting angling adventure, during which time he has cast a line in all manner of exotic venues from West Africa to the US in search of monster fish of all species.
And the 61-year-old, who only took up fishing in his thirties, has just completed his goal of catching 200 ‘ton-up fish’ following a mega haul in Thailand during which he banked 111 fish for an estimated 3.2 tonnes total weight, with 31 weighing over 100lb and 13 over 200lb.
During his big-fish odyssey, Martin has landed four unofficial world records, a world record shark-toothed catfish and a River Ebro record carp – plus a World Champs medal with Carp Team England in 2015.
He revealed that the early inspiration for his worldwide adventure came from none other than TV fishing icon John Wilson.
“I used to love watching John’s shows where he fished abroad and, after coming into a bit of money, I thought: “I’d like to do that myself,” he said. “I started off with a trip to the River Ebro in Spain and caught six 100lb-plus catfish on my first trip. I was instantly hooked on that type of fishing!
“Since then, I’ve been to Canada for the sturgeon, made half-a-dozen trips to Thailand, where I caught all manner of heavyweights, and had nine visits to the States in search of huge sharks, tarpon and other species.”
Of the 201 fish Martin has now caught over the 100lb barrier, the biggest of the 16 different species is a colossal 1,000lb-plus sawfish, a creature measuring 21ft long which took an hour and three-quarters to land. It’s one of just seven sawfish caught during the 17 years he has visited the US.
‘Just do it!’
After being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2017, Martin admits that he’s planning to slow down a bit and fish closer to home.
“Targeting the true monsters is getting harder for me these days. I have aches and pains everywhere, but I still love floater fishing for carp in this country. In fact, I love it so much that if that’s all I could do for the rest of my days, I’d be happy,” he said.
Martin is urging others to not only get themselves checked out, but to grab every opportunity available to go on an epic trip.
“It’s been hard at times over the last few years,” he said. “You get a lot of time on the bank to think about things, but thankfully, I can look back and say I’ve had a crazy life and done exactly what I wanted to do. I’ve also got three great kids and a grandson now too – who I love to take fishing.
“My globetrotting hasn’t been cheap, and I’ve spent probably £180,000. I don’t own my own house because of it, but I’m okay with that. All I can say to others is, if you have any spare money to go on just one trip to the type of wonderful places I’ve visited, then do it! You can’t take your money with you, so use it to make memories you’ll never forget. If you get one of those monsters on the end, you’ll be hooked for life!”
MARTIN’S MONSTERS (His big-fish hit list)
1,000lb-plus Sawfish (unofficial record)
400lb Lemon shark
400lb Bull shark
150lb Salween Rita catfish (unofficial record)
180lb Nurse shark
160lb Black tip shark (unofficial record)
100lb Siamese carp
300lb Mekong catfish
130lb Scalloped hammerhead shark
650lb Goliath grouper (unofficial record)
176lb Wels catfish
110lb Chao Phraya catfish
While some of Martin’s records are unofficial, due to the procedure required to claim the record involving the sacrifice of the fish, they’re estimated by the boat skippers and guides through measurements of the fish. His two recognised records are a River Ebro common carp of 63lb 4oz, taken in 2015, and an 18lb 8oz shark-toothed catfish from Thailand in 2009.
What is your favourite fishing destination?
“I love Thailand, but if you want to target a lot of very big fish, it has to be the Florida Keys. You never know what you might hook next!”
What’s the hardest -fighting fish you’ve encountered?
“Mekong catfish – they destroy you! I’ve played them for an hour and 45 minutes but have seen others go on for up to three hours. They just don’t give up!”
Overall favourite ‘monster’ species?
“Tarpon – the fight is incredible, yet they give really shy bites. We used tiny pong-pong ball floats, and sometimes the fish would barely pull them under!”
What’s the craziest tactic you’ve employed?
“When fishing for Mekong cats, we often don’t even put bait on the hook. We use a big pike float with a cage feeder loaded with groundbait underneath, with a short trace and big hook attached to the feeder. The small fish attack the feeder and the catfish attack the shoal in one go – very cool!”