Sometimes you’re the Windshield. Sometimes You're the Bug.
(Lewes, DE) - Our trip began just after 3:00pm Saturday, as we departed from Lewes, Delaware aboard the LIL ANGLER II in search of Black Drum. The Charter included Colby Hastings of Seaford DE, Bobbi Jo Dean of Georgetown DE, Dick Papp of Milton DE, and birthday boy, John Meredith of Lincoln DE. We headed directly up the Delaware Bay to my favorite area, only to find it littered with other boats already fishing. Shifting gears to 'Plan B,' we located another area with plenty of room. A light west wind, combined with the start of the ebb made for ideal conditions. We anchored in 15 feet of water, and let out about 500 feet of anchor line to get the LIL ANGLER II just where I wanted it. Once anchored and pinned on the rode, fresh surf clams from Lewes Harbor Marine were promptly shucked and deployed on a fish finder rig using 4 ounces or weight. Thirty pound fluorocarbon leaders up to 20 inches long were snelled to 8/0 Gamagstu circle hooks.
After an hour bait soak and several bait refreshing, angler Dick Papp hooked into his first Delaware Bay black drum! The fish measured 34 ½ inches, and weighed in at approximately 28lbs. Bobbi Jo Dean hooked up next, hauling in a 29 inch, 18 pound fish. Bobbi Jo also scores a second fish around 21 pounds. Next up, John Meredith hooks what we can tell from experience, is going to be a beast. What followed was a battle lasting and hour and twenty five minutes! While John is still in the battle of his life, Dick Papp landed a nice 35 pounder, and Bobbi Jo hooks up again. This time however, he hands the rod off to Colby, who has yet to catch one. Colby’s efforts pay off with a 34 pound fish. John Meredith finally lands his biggest fish ever, tipping the scales at 54.75 pounds, and first ever Delaware Fishing Tournament citation and patch. As the saying goes, at this point of the day, The LIL ANGLER II is without a doubt 'the windshield.'
How fast things can change......
The sun sets, the current slacks, and the bite drops off. But this crew of anglers is still feeling good. Based on radio reports, the LIL’ ANGLER II is still well ahead of the rest of the fleet. Remaining patient, the current starts to flood again, improving fishing conditions.
I forgot to mention that when we started to catch our previous fish, we became an instant magnet that attracted other boats. As darkness sets in, we're surrounded by other boat filled with fishermen, and nothing is happening. Radio chatter indicates that two other boats have each caught one fish each. As the slow pace continues at this location, other boats begin moving out. It is now just us and one other boat, and I have not moved since we dropped the hook. It pays off.
Colby sees a slight tap on the rods, picks it up, and FISH ON! But while it's looking like our luck has turned back on, believe me the transition from windshield to 'bug' begins. The fish is fighting hard, and running into the current. Colby is a novice to fishing, but is doing a fantastic job fighting the fish. To this point, the drum has done nothing spectacular, and our shields are down. Just then, the fish makes another run that keeps going. The rods are loaded with 30lb braid with a little mono underneath. In the heat of battling this drum, the comment is made that the reel was now down to the mono backer. The mate tells Colby to tighten the drag slightly, but Colby did not understand, so the mate adjusts the drag. It is this innocent, yet critical motion that has now made us the 'bug,' and we don’t even know it. The battle continues with several more drag adjustments, by both the mate and me (the Captain). The fish gets closer to the boat and breaks the surface, and making John’s previous 54.75 pounder look like a minnow. At this point, I realize we could be the 'bug.' The fish is finally landed. It is huge.
The IGFA is developing a smart phone app that will identify a fish when you take a photo of it with your smart phone. I have been taking photos of all black drum caught to contribute to the development effort.
The IGFA has an All Tackle Length Live Release category that includes black drum. The current record is held by Dr. Julie Ball of Virginia, caught in May of 2011, measuring 121 cm. When we put the fish on the IGFA ruler, it measures 122 cm, and would otherwise be considered a tie to the current world record for a released black drum. To officially retire an old record, the new fish must measure 2 cm greater, or it is considered a tie. To explain that our excitement for this amazing catch would be matched by disappointment would be an understatement.
You see, our fish did not qualify for a tie, because someone other than the angler touched the reel. The simple act of adjusting the drag disqualified the fish. Hence we are now the 'bug,' flattened on the windshield of life. Photos were taken in accordance with IGFA standards to quiet any doubters, and Colby released the giant drum over the transom to live another day. While disappointing, I am equally encouraged to know that drum records can be tied or beaten right here in the Delaware Bay. And on what started out as an everyday, typical charter trip, I also learned a valuable lesson; you never know what is on the end of the line, and all hook ups should be treated as potential records.
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Delaware Family Fishing