Town of Weldon
The Myth of Rocky the Giant Rockfish
While doing research on the historic Weldon fish hatchery, I cam across a fishing story that was so unbelievable that I felt I had to share it with others. It starts on a crisp March morning 1904, with a slight fog rising from the falls, when fisherman Johnathan Jackson launches his hand crafted wooden boat loaded with fresh netted herring; a sharpened hook and fresh fishing line, Jackson stated that he had a funny feeling in his gun, (every fisherman has had this feeling once before when things seem perfect for catching fish) a sense of excitement and yearning. The herring were splashing about and swimming laps as if they were ready to swim back to the ocean, even they must have had the same feelings. Jackson headed to his favorite spot some where near what is believed to be the big rock, his exact location was not revealed as any good fisherman will never give up his favorite fishing hole. The sun was cresting the tree tops, casting a nice shadow on the shoreline. The sound of fish rolling on top of the water, feeding on baitfish and nymphs could be heard over the roar of the falls. Jackson heard a splash so loud he ducked into his boat in fear of a tree being gnawed by a beaver, but no tree fell. Jackson reached into his bait bucket and found the largest, shiniest and most frisky herring he could find. Jackson stated that he threw towards the middle of the river into a deep hole that he knew would hold a female and according to the legend, he was right. Little did he know at that time but Jackson was in for a fight that would test his strength, determination and eventually his life. Jackson saw that his bait was swimming hard against the current which meant only one thing, something big was chasing his bait. He slowly reached for his favorite pole and began taking up the slack in his line when the sound that every fisherman loves to hear, the sound of the drag as the fish took his line and headed straight for the falls. Jackson stated that he knew he had a big female on because she headed towards the falls in an attempt to break him off in the rocks. Jackson tightened his drag and began the gug of war of a life time. Jackson fighting the fish for over two hours with the sun beating down was taking a toll on him. Jackson said several times he would feel the fish wrap him around the rocks and the bottom but managed to hoist the fish back up and free it from the tangles on bottom. Jackson got a glimpse of the fish as it neared the top of the water, a shadow that he claims to have been longer than his boat. He knew that he needed help landing this giant and called out for fellow fisherman to assist him but his cries went unanswered. Jackson tried to row the to the shore and pull the fish on dry ground but the fish turned down stream and pulled Jackson's boat down stream with it. Jackson was growing weak at this point as he attempted to row upstream back towards the landing and still fighting the monster on the end of his line. Jackson managed to use the current to turn the fish towards the sandbar. He hoped this would allow him to get the fish into shallow water at which time he would attempt to net it. When he got close to the fish, the fish made a desperate leap for freedom. Some fisherman claim that if you touch the leader, it's a caught fish, well at this time a leader was not a method used by fisherman. So every fishermans worse nightmare was unraveling before his eyes. As if life suddenly became a slow motion film, he was looking into the eyes of the fish and the fish looked back at him. It was if the fish was about to acknowledge defeat when all of a sudden, the sound of all sounds was heard, the snap of his line. Jackson reached for his net in a desperate attempt to catch this monster rock. As he made contact with the fish he soon realized the fish was too big for his net and bounced off the tip of the net and splashed back into the water. Jackson felt a sharp pain that ran the entire length of his body and collapsed into the bottom of his boat. For Jackson knew that this was the largest rockfish he had ever seen and it would have been a world record. Jackson was mentally and physicall beaten by the fish and started to paddle back to shore to share his story with his fishing buddies. As Jackson reached the shore he felt another shearing pain that ran through his body as if he had been struck by lighting. Jackson looked back towards the rock and claims to have seen the fish on the surface staring at him before it disappeared under water as to bow to a reputable opponent. Jackson made it back to shore where his friends were gathering after they had heard his cries for help. Jackson out of breath, dazed by the hours of fighting the fish and paddling back upstream began to tell his story. Locals knew Jackson as an avid fisherman but he was better known as the town drunk. Jackson short winded, speaking in fragments tried to describe the battle he just lost to a monster rockfish. Several of the guys on the shore started poking fun at Jackson and claimed he must have had too many drinks of the spirit and that he most likely hooked into a big catfish. The river is known to have catfish as big as men in it and many locals know that big catfish can put up a fierce fight. Jackson angry at this point because no one believed his story so he parked his boat on the sandy bank and started up to the pub to drink his misery away and get his bar buddies to support his tale. When Jackson reached the bar he was greeted by his fellow fishing buddies sitting at the bar all enjoying a strong shot of the spirit. Jackson gathered his buddies around and ordered a shot and began to tell the tale of the monster rockfish that would have been the world record. Jackson took a deep breath, reached for his shot, tilted his head back and made a toast, here's to record breakers. As Jackson was about to drink the shot, his buddies claim he looked straight into the lights of the bar and then fell backwards onto the floor. Jackson was again robbed of pleasure, as he had suffered a massive heart attack. Little did Jackson know the pain he felt was feeling not of disgust; sadness or even fatigue, but the signs of a heart attack. Jackson became a local legend about the monster rockfish that was big as a boat but got away. It has been over a hundred years since Jackson nearly landed this monster rockfish and we felt that Jackson's efforts needed to be recognized. This fishing fable tale or exaggerated story needed to be told and kept alive to keep Jackson's spirit on the river fresh in the minds of all those who visit Weldon each spring in hope of catching a monster rockfish. Maybe you can be the next fishing legend and put your name in the history books. The only way to find out is to put a line in and try. Best of luck, Capt. Bob.
(Upper Left Sidebar): Fun Fish Facts:
Striped Bass (Common Name) A.k.a. Rockfish
Morone Saxatilis (Latin)
If you caught this Rockfish on Display it would be 198 inches long and weigh 4,578 pounds. The State Record: 64 lbs - 0 oz.
World Record: 81 lbs - 14 oz.
This fish would shatter the record by 4496.86 lbs.
Hickory Shad (Common Name)
Alosa Mediocris (Latin)
If you caught this Hickory Shad it would be 33 inches long and weigh 19.96 pounds.
The State Record: 4lbs 1 oz.
World Record: 2lbs 14 oz.
This would shatter the record by 17.82 lbs.
(The difference in the world and state record is the state record was not registered with the International Game Fish Association in order to be recognized as a world record.)
It took over 200 hours to carve and paint Rocky. It was hand sculpted by Grey's Taxidermy, Pompano Beach, Fl. Rocky traveled 970 miles to get to his new home. The stripers that migrate from the upper Chesapeake Bay to reach the spawning beds of the Roanoke River each spring travel about the same miles round trip.
(Right Sidebar): Places of Interest Near By
Roanoke Canal Trail
Wildlife Boat Landing
Old Train Depot
Aqueduct-Chockoyotte Creek >W> .75 miles to Ponderosa Rd.
Tunnel under Hwy 301
Weldon was founded by William Weldon who had been given the land by his father Daniel Weldon late 1700s. On January 6, 1843 the town was incorporated and recognized by the state. In 1840, Weldon had the longest railroad in America spanning 161 1/2 miles to Wilmington, NC. During the Civil War, Weldon was home to a soldier hospital located on 1st street. On March 2, 2009, Weldon was officially recognized by the North Carolina General Assembly as the Rockfish Capital of the World.