'Space geek' fisherman hauls in piece of SpaceX capsule

A Ponce Inlet charter captain hauled in an unusual catch on a recent fishing trip. Capt. David Stokes says he snagged part of a Dragon – a Dragon space capsule, that is.

In a video posted to YouTube on Tuesday, Stokes said he was trolling for wahoo off the coast of Daytona Beach when he spotted something bobbing in the water. When he got closer, he realized it was a piece of the SpaceX Dragon capsule, presumably from last month’s inflight abort test.

“We went by and I saw the Dragon [logo]. And being a space geek, I noticed it was a Dragon door,” he explained.

Back on January 19, SpaceX intentionally blasted a Dragon capsule from an accelerating Falcon 9 rocket in an uncrewed test of the capsule’s ability to survive an in-flight emergency. 

The Falcon 9 booster erupted in a fireball as expected, sending debris down into the Atlantic. But the capsule safely pulled away and parachuted into the sea, where a SpaceX ship fished it out and brought it back to shore – all except that parachute hatch cover, apparently.

The Dragon capsule blasts free of the Falcon 9 in last month's IFA test flight (SpaceX photo)

Fast-forward a few weeks to when Stokes and his team noticed the hatch in the water. They struggled to haul it aboard, finally realizing the drogue parachutes – which stabilize the capsule before the main chutes open – were still attached to the hatch and dragging in the water.

“After 40 minutes or so of wrestling with it, inches by inches, we finally pulled it all up,” he continued.

After all that work, Stokes decided to head in. But he posed for photos with the hatch – and at least one wahoo – and he seemed pretty happy with the effort.

“Turned out, at the end of the day, we got the catch of our life,” he added.

This story was reported from Tampa, Florida.