The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) confirmed earlier this week that a 9-year-old from Ocean City just landed the state’s most recent fishing record. Emma Zajdel may be young, but she is pound-for-pound one of the most impressive anglers to go into the state record books this year. According to officials, the young angler was fishing with her father Ed Zajdel and two others near Assateague Island in late June. The group was trolling for bluefish and had two lines in the water when Ed Zajdel noticed a bite and handed the rod off to his daughter. The fish took off nearly instantly.
“At first, we thought it was a shark, and the line was going out.” Emma told the DNR. “I could hear the reel and the drag and I thought I could go over the side.”
Widely regarded as one of the strongest fighting fish in its weight class, cobia can be intimidating for newcomers, and certainly for 9-year-olds. Cobia have been known to pull lighter anglers right off their boats, but with her fighting belt on, that was not about to happen to Emma Zajdel. Instead, she brought the fish to heel in less than 20 minutes.
“I kept the boat in gear and followed the fish at a 45-degree angle to keep the line tight and Emma settled,” her father explained. “When she got the fish in, and we lifted it on board, it went ballistic. Emma and Ashton scurried to the front of the boat while Robert and I wrestled the fish into the fish box and iced it down.”
The party brought the cobia to a certified scale at Sunset Marina the very next day, and a DNR biologist was on site to confirm the state record. In the end, the fish measured 94.6 pounds and 66.7 inches long. For comparison, the angler that battled the massive fish was only 65 pounds and 52 inches tall.
This fourth grader has a lot she can be proud of. Not only did her catch break the previous 79-pound state record set by Jack Latimer in 2014, but it also is eligible for the Small Fry World Record for a fish caught by an angler under 10 years of age. For that, Zajdel would have to submit an application to the International Game Fish Association, which currently recognizes a 48-pound fish in that category. If Zadjel’s application is approved, her cobia could unseat that record handily.
As for the fish itself, it was eaten after the officials confirmed it as a state record. Zadjel remarked simply that it was very tasty.
Images courtesy Maryland Department of Natural Resources