In a recent feat of angling excellence, two skilled anglers have clinched new Maryland state records for previously unrecorded fish species within the Atlantic Division. These impressive catches add excitement and intrigue to Maryland’s rich fishing culture, showcasing the diverse marine life off its coast. Let’s delve into the remarkable captures that made headlines in the world of sport fishing.
Pompano Dolphinfish Record
Chris Stafford, a proficient angler hailing from Cherry Hill, New Jersey, etched his name into the annals of Maryland fishing history by reeling in a pompano dolphinfish (Coryphaena equiselis) on September 20, 2023. Weighing in at a commendable 2.0 pounds, this striking fish made its presence known in the waters off the coast of Ocean City.
Stafford’s encounter with the record-breaking dolphinfish was nothing short of exhilarating. While working a dolphinfish school in the Poor Man’s Canyon, he realized one of his catches appeared distinct from the others. Upon closer inspection, he observed unique characteristics in the fish’s body shape and proportions. Upon returning to the dock, an experienced fish cutter at Bahia Marina also noted these disparities. This prompted Stafford to report his find to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, which subsequently identified the species.
Distinguishing a pompano dolphinfish from its common counterpart relies on specific attributes. These include a broad, squarish tooth patch, a body depth exceeding 25% of its standard length, a non-concave and non-sickle-fin-shaped anal fin, and a lower dorsal fin ray count compared to the common dolphinfish. In this case, the fish exhibited 53 rays, while common dolphinfish typically range from 58 to 66. The fish’s weight was officially verified on a certified scale at Bahia Marina, measuring in at 20 inches in fork length.
Great Barracuda Record
Stephen Humphrey, a resident of Ellicott City, achieved his own angling glory by landing a substantial great barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda) on October 6, 2023. This remarkable catch tipped the scales at a whopping 13.0 pounds and was secured off the coast of Ocean City.
Humphrey was engaged in trolling for yellowfin tuna, utilizing a rigged skirted ballyhoo bait in the deep waters of the Washington Canyon. His fishing expedition took place on the charter boat “Wrecker,” under the guidance of Captain Bobby Layton and mate Cody Smith. Notably, while a few stray barracuda have been encountered in Maryland’s waters in recent years, this particular specimen stood out due to its considerable size.
Department fishery managers predict an increase in sightings of such southern visitors, like barracuda, cobia, king mackerel, sheepshead, and pompano. These species are expected to appear more frequently in Maryland’s waters due to climate change and rising ocean temperatures.
The great barracuda’s weight was officially confirmed and certified at the Ocean City Fishing Center, with measurements recording 40 inches in fork length and 42 inches in total length.
Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources diligently maintains state records for sport fish in four divisions: Atlantic, Chesapeake, Nontidal, and Invasive. Anglers who successfully achieve record catches are honored with prestigious plaques.