OCEAN CITY — Just two days into the New Year, anglers caught new state records in two species, including a potential world-record tautog caught from a charter off the coast of Ocean City.
On Jan. 2, two anglers rang in the New Year with a new state record tautog and a new state record chain pickerel caught in an unnamed pond in Wicomico County.
Kenneth Westerfield of College Point, N.Y. reeled in the 28.8-pound tautog about 20 miles southeast of Ocean City while fishing in about 75 feet of water with Captain Kane Bounds on the local charter boat “Fish Bound.”
Maryland’s previous record was a 23-pound tautog caught by angler Charles Donohue near Ocean City in 2012. The current world record for tautog is 25 pounds, and if confirmed, Westerfield’s 28.8 pounder caught on January 2 would eclipse that mark by nearly four pounds.
“Ocean City is the best place for big taugog,” said Westerfield this week. “The water clarity is very good and the offshore wrecks hold some really big fish. I’ve been fishing very hard for over 20 years to catch a 20-pound tog.”
Westerfield caught the tautog using a Jonah crab rigged on a seven-foot custom rod with 50-pound braided running line and a 50-pound fluorocarbon leader on a Shimano Tymos reel. The potential world record breaker was brought to Sunset Marina in West Ocean City where Jacob Widgeon weighed the fish on the marina’s International Game Fish Association (IGFA) certified scale.
Maryland Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist Keith Lockwood examined and confirmed the species, making the new Maryland record official.
Westerfield is now pursuing an all-tackle world record certification with IGFA. In the meantime, he plans to keep coming back to the resort area for more.
“Maryland has the most prolific tautog fishery,” he said. “I believe there is a bigger one out there.”
On the same day, Lee Haile III of Towson was catching and releasing chain pickerel with his son and a friend in an unnamed
Lower Shore pond near Salisbury when his line came tight. Haile reeled in the fish, which turned out to be an eight-pound chain pickerel, good enough for a new state record for that species.
“I’ve been fishing for pickerel for over 38 years and I just knew this one was exceptional,” he said this week.
According to Haile, the fish made a couple of strong 30-yard dashes, circled the boat twice, dodged the net and dove under the boat before finally coming aboard. Haile weighed the fish to confirm its size at two different tackle shops and seafood markets before meeting Lockwood near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to confirm the species’ new state record. The old state record was a seven pound, four ounce pickerel set in 1976. The world record is nine pounds, four ounces set in Georgia in 1961.