One New York angler is celebrating after achieving one of the first fishing world records of 2015. On January 2, Kenneth Westerfield reeled in a 28.8-pound tautog 20 miles south of Ocean City, Maryland. The catch was made with the assistance of Captain Bane Bounds on the charter boat Fish Bound. At that weight the fish is a contender for the all-tackle world record, which, according to the International Game Fish Association (IGFA), currently belongs to a 25-pound tautog caught in 1998 in Ocean City, New Jersey. The Maryland Department of of Natural Resources (DNR) has already confirmed Westerfield’s catch as the new state record, displacing a 23-pound fish caught in 2012.
“It’s something to be very proud of,” Westerfield told The Washington Post. “It’s sort of a culmination of over 20 years of fishing experience in my life.”
It has long been a dream of Westerfield, a former bridge and tunnel officer, to catch a tautog over 20 pounds. Since he was injured on the job several years ago, Westerfield has trouble sitting or standing, and is required to wear braces for his back and knees. However, with the help of a custom chair, he is still able to fish.
“Ocean City is the best place for big tautog,” Westerfeld told the DNR. “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.”
The angler listed among his equipment a seven-foot, two-inch Calstar Custom rod with 50-pound braided running line, a 50-pound fluorocarbon leader on a Shaimano Tymos reel, and for bait he used a Jonah crab.
Landing the fish was no easy chore.
“Me with my handicaps, I had my hands really full. I’m still in pain right now,” he told the Post. “They just pound. They’re fighting for their life. You really have to hold their head up and keep them out. You gotta beat them.”
The fight took less than 10 minutes, but Westerfield said that the fish was not ready to give up until the very end. The prized tautog was then taken to Sunset Marina to be weighed, and afterwards inspected by fisheries biologist Keith Lockwood. The confirmation of Westerfield’s fish as a state record could only help his case when he pursues the all-tackle world record with the IGFA. Yet it does not mean he will stop aiming for the big ones.
“Maryland has the most prolific tautog fishery. I believe there is a bigger one out there,” he said told the DNR.
Image courtesy Capt. Kane Bounds/Maryland DNR