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Vol 48 | WINTER ISSUE | Jan 1, 2023

2022 Delmarva Year in Review Chum Lines Ship to Shore How to Catch Tautog Flounder Fishing in the Surf Fishing Glossary The Galley Issue Photos
Chum Lines

Article by Capt. Mark Sampson

Years ago representatives from the Guinness Book of World Records made a stop in Maryland to give locals the opportunity to stand before them and try to get their names in the record book. They would have to be doing wacky and stupid things that were bigger, faster, higher, bolder, longer, and crazier than the wacky and stupid things that other people had done in the past. If you know anything about the Guinness book then you’re aware that it lists some pretty bizarre records, for instance:

Heaviest train pulled with a beard - 6,069 lbs over a distance of 32.8 ft.
Fastest time to type to one million (in words) - 16 years.
Fastest speed for a motorcycle ridden blindfolded - 164.87 mph.
Fastest marathon dressed as an elf - 2 hours 58 minutes and 16 seconds.
Most nails hammered with the head in one minute - 20 nails using only his head.
Fastest time to push an orange one mile with the nose - 22 minutes and 41 seconds.
Most apples held in the mouth and cut in half by chainsaw in one minute - 25 apples.

In efforts to become a part of this “elite” group of record holders, my friend Mr. Arnold scoured the hundreds of pages of the Guinness book to find a record that he might be able to beat. What he settled on was “lemon eating” wherein he had to eat a certain amount of lemons (skin and all) in a specified amount of time. When it was all finished “no” he didn’t beat the existing record, but “yes” he did have to endure subsequent days of severe stomach pain!

Realizing that lemon eating was not his calling, but not quite ready to don an elf suit or straddle a motorcycle blindfolded, my friend, who is also an avid fisherman, exchanged his Guinness book for a copy of the annual publication put out by the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) - the one organization recognized around the world for properly qualifying, recording, and keeping records for most of the game fish caught anywhere on the planet.

IGFA records are maintained not just for the heaviest “all-tackle” catches in each species of fish, but also for “line-class” catches in 2, 4, 6, 8, 12, 16, 20, 30, 50, 80, and 130 pound test line, fly-tackle records in 2, 4, 6, 8, 12, 16, and 20 pound tippets. Records are also broken down by men’s, women’s, junior and small fry categories. With so many categories there may be over 20 individuals who hold records at the same time for a single species of fish, and with so many types of fish in the world, there are not only a lot of records on the books, but always a gang of new records waiting to be set and many existing records waiting to be broken.

To keep the world record process fair for the anglers, the IGFA has a truck-load of rules that stipulate how fish must be landed, what type of bait and tackle may and may not be used, and what procedures must be followed after the catch to officially qualify it as a record. All records are still “potentials” until IGFA receives a properly completed application and processing fee, a sample of the fishing line and all terminal tackle used to catch the fish, as well as a selection of photos showing the angler with the fish, the tackle, and the fish on a certified weigh scale. Finally, before qualifying a record the IGFA uses a device to check and verify the true breaking strength of the line. Similar to the rules of many fishing tournaments, IGFA rules are not designed to make it difficult for fishermen to set records but are crafted to maintain uniformity in angling practices and prevent anyone from taking unfair advantage over the fish or other fishermen.

To give readers an idea of what the IGFA is concerned about, here’s a partial list of some of their rules:

Leader for Saltwater Species
In all line classes up to and including 20 pounds, the leader shall be limited to 15 feet. The combined length of the double line and leader shall not exceed 20 feet.
The leader on all classes of tackle over 20 pounds shall be limited to 30 feet. The combined length of the double line and leader shall be limited to 40 feet.

Hooks and Bait Fishing
1. For live or dead bait fishing, no more than two single hooks may be used. Both must be firmly embedded in or securely attached to the bait. The eyes of the hooks must be no less than a hook’s length (the length of the largest hook used) apart and no more than 18 inches apart. The only exception is that the point of one hook may be passed through the eye of the other hook. A hook may not precede bait, lure or bait/lure combo by more than one hook’s length.
2. The use of a dangling or swinging hook is prohibited. Double or treble hooks are prohibited.
3. A two hook rig for bottom fishing is acceptable if it consists of two single hooks on separate leaders or drops. Both hooks must be embedded in the respective baits and separated sufficiently so that a fish caught on one hook cannot be foul hooked by the other.

Other Equipment
1. Fighting chairs may not have any mechanically propelled devices that aid the angler in fighting a fish.
2. Gimbals must be free swinging, which includes gimbals that swing in a vertical plane only. Any gimbal that allows the angler to reduce strain or to rest while fighting the fish is prohibited.
3. Gaffs (including flying gaffs), tail snares and nets used to boat or land a fish must not exceed 8 feet in overall length. In using a flying or detachable gaff, the rope may not exceed 30 feet. Only a single hook is permitted on any gaff. Harpoons or lances are prohibited. Tail ropes are limited to 30 feet. When fishing from a bridge, pier, or other high platform or structure, this length limitation does not apply.
4. Entangling devices, either with or without a hook, are prohibited and may not be used for any purpose including baiting, hooking, fighting, or landing the fish.
5. Outriggers, downriggers, spreader bars and kites are permitted to be used provided that the actual fishing line is attached to the snap or other release device, either directly or with some other material. The leader or double line may not be connected to the release mechanism either directly or with the use of a connecting device. Spreader bars are also acceptable when used strictly as a teaser.

Angling Regulations
1. From the time that a fish strikes or takes a bait or lure, the angler must hook, fight, and land or boat the fish without the aid of any other person, except as provided in these regulations.
2. If a rod holder is used, once the fish is hooked, the angler must remove the rod from the rod holder as quickly as possible.

The following acts will disqualify a catch:
1. Failure to comply with equipment or angling regulations.
2. The act of persons other than the angler in touching any part of the rod, reel, or line (including the double line) either bodily or with any device, from the time a fish strikes or takes the bait or lure, until the fish is either landed or released, or in giving any aid other than that allowed in the rules and regulations. If an obstacle to the passage of the line through the rod guides has to be removed from the line, then the obstacle (whether chum, rubber band, or other material) shall be held and cut free. Under no circumstances should the line be held or touched by anyone other than the angler during this process.
3. Resting the rod in a rod holder, on the gunwale of the boat, or any other object while playing the fish.
4. Handlining or using a handline or rope attached in any manner to the angler’s line or leader for the purpose of holding or lifting the fish.
5. Shooting, harpooning, or lancing any fish (including sharks and halibuts) at any stage of the catch.
6. Chumming with or using as bait the flesh, blood, skin, or any part of mammals other than hair or pork rind used in lures designed for trolling or casting.
7. Using a boat or device to beach or drive a fish into shallow water in order to deprive the fish of its normal ability to swim.
8. Changing the rod or reel while the fish is being played.
9. Splicing, removing, or adding to the line while the fish is being played.
10. Intentionally foul hooking a fish.
11. Catching a fish in a manner that the double line never leaves the rod tip.
12. Using a size or kind of bait that is illegal to possess.
13. Attaching the angler’s line or leader to part of a boat or other object for the purpose of holding or lifting the fish.
14. If a fish escapes before gaffing or netting and is recaptured by any method other than as outlined in the angling rules.
15. Holding or touching an angler in a manner that assists them in fighting the fish or takes pressure off of the angler. Touching or briefly holding the angler to prevent them from falling does not constitute a disqualification.

The following situations will disqualify a catch:
1. When a rod breaks (while the fish is being played) in a manner that reduces the length of the tip below minimum dimensions or severely impairs its angling characteristics.
2. Mutilation to the fish, prior to landing or boating the catch, caused by sharks, other fish, mammals, or propellers that remove or penetrate the flesh. Injuries caused by leader or line, scratches, old healed scars or regeneration deformities are not considered to be disqualifying injuries. Any mutilation on the fish must be shown in a photograph and fully explained in a report accompanying the record application.
3. When a fish is hooked or entangled on more than one line.
4. When a catch violates laws or regulations governing the species or the waters where it was caught.
For most fishermen, the thought of setting a “world record” probably seems like such a long-shot that they’re ready to dismiss it as an impossible dream that will never come true. That’s probably because many assume that world records are set by anglers who just luck into an extraordinarily large fish one day and suddenly they’re in the record books. And sometimes it happens that way, but more times than not records are set by anglers who are specifically trying to set a record. They do their research and know exactly what size and type of fish they need to catch, are very aware of IGFA tackle requirements and angling rules, know where they can weigh their catch on a certified scale, and have all the extra necessities such as cameras, tape measures, IGFA forms, ready for action when the time comes.

With just a little research some folks might find that getting in the record books could be within their reach. I’m not saying it’ll be easy – but it’s certainly not impossible. The place to start is the IGFA website (www.igfa.org) where all the details about what the organization requires for a record are available. From that site anyone can access the complete list of rules and look-up whatever type of fish they want to pursue and see if there is a record in a line class category they might have a shot at beating. Then, after making sure all their tackle conforms to IGFA specifications, anglers need only to go out and catch that fish!

Of course, successfully landing the right fish on the right tackle will usually prove to be more than just a little challenging, particularly for someone trying for a super light line category such as when using 2, 4, or 6-pound line. So anglers shouldn’t expect things to go their way - right away, and probably figure on breaking off a lot of fish in the process. But with each mishap comes a little more experience that will hopefully bring the angler closer to their ultimate goal of getting in the record book.
All that is exactly what my friend Mr. Arnold ended up doing. Knowing what size and types of fish were most available in the places he usually fishes (Ocean City and the Florida Keys) he scoured the record books to see what tackle he’d need to use to catch those fish in order to set a record. Since he was an avid fly fisherman he focused on records in those categories and realized that here on Delmarva his best shots at that time would be black sea bass records and in the Keys he would focus on the bonnethead and lemon shark records. Oh yeah - he also needed a captain and fishing guide - so that’s where I was drafted to be a part of the plan.

On this record hunt we got a crash course in the importance of using good line, leaders, knots, and sharp hooks when targeting relatively big fish on light tackle. We figured out how to tie very thin lines to much heavier leaders, how to properly set drags for those lines, and how to properly make casts with super light lines that don’t end up with the terminal tackle breaking off in the air! We also learned the importance of “where” we did our fishing. For instance; even though we knew the biggest sea bass were on the deeper wrecks and reefs, getting a fly line to sink 80 or more feet to reach those fish was just not possible so we had to stick to the shallower reefs where the tackle could reach the fish. Similarly, when we were targeting some of the larger sharks in the Keys we had to find ones that we were far enough up on a shallow flat that we could hook and land them before they had a chance to slip off the edge and into the deeper water where they would be very difficult to lift up to the boat with the very light leader. We also learned the importance of being prepared with the necessary equipment to properly boat, measure, weigh, photograph, and document each catch within the guidelines set forth by the IGFA.

Of course, if you want to get your name in the books, “world” records are not the only ones to try and beat as each state has its own list of “state” record holders which are usually maintained and verified by whatever department handles their recreational fisheries. Unlike the IGFA which qualifies many record categories for each species of fish (conventional, fly, line class, men’s, woman’s), most states only recognize the heaviest of each type of fish caught, regardless of age, sex, or on what type of tackle it was caught as long as it was done so by anglers who follow wherever rules that state uses.

Maryland state records are managed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Anglers are required to follow all IGFA rules to qualify for a Maryland state record. In addition, potential state record fish must be inspected by a DNR biologist to qualify for a record. Anglers should call 443-569-1398 to report a potential state record catch then submit a state record application within two weeks of the date of catch.

More information about Maryland state records can be found at:
Delaware State records are available for most fish caught both inshore and offshore of the First State. In order for a fish to qualify it must be taken by anglers following the “Delaware Sport Fishing Tournament Rules”. All fish must be weighed at an official Delaware Sport Fishing Tournament Weigh Station. A fish will not be recognized as a state record unless qualified personnel from the Division of Fish and Wildlife approve the catch. In case no Division personnel are available at the time of the weigh-in, the angler must save the entire fish for examination and approval at the earliest convenient time for the Division. For potential State Record Fish verification call 302-735-2960 or 800-523-3336.

A complete list of Delaware rules and current records can be found at: https://dnrec.alpha.delaware.gov/fish-wildlife/fishing/state-records/

Perhaps the best advice for anyone who might think that it would be cool to have their name in any of the record books and (if given chance) might be inclined to actually pursue one is to “do your homework”. Study up on the current records for the various species of fish found in your area of operation as well as the rules on tackle and equipment restrictions. Then, when you’re fishing, even if you’re not specifically trying to land a record fish, use tackle that conforms to the record guidelines so that even if, just by chance, you land a contender, it will qualify for a record.

As it turned out, over 6-years period my friend Mr. Arnold caught six world record fish of three different species including black sea bass, bonnethead and lemon sharks. Pursuing records was fun, exciting and at times frustrating, but it was always very gratifying whenever word was finally received that a record was official. Not by coincidence, during those years my wife Charlotte also became interested in pursuing some of the women’s records and in an 11-year period managed to get in the book 17-times for four different species. Along the way we did have our share of heartbreaks and frustrations, like when we had a record disqualified because I mistakenly made a leader a foot too long, or the record that didn’t count because the scale we used ended up not checking out properly, or the record shark we lost right at the boat after an hour and half battle, or the fish we lost at the boat because the net broke. All were learning experiences that weren’t exactly a source of joy when they occurred but that we’re able to laugh about now.

So is all this record-stuff worth the hassle of the pursuit? First off, despite what some folks might think, I can say from experience that setting a state or even a world fishing record will not be a life-changing accomplishment. The press isn’t going to be beating down your door for interviews, you won’t suddenly be getting sponsorship offers from tackle and soft drink companies, and you won’t be asked to ride with Santa in the Christmas parade. What you’ll get is a certificate, your name in the record book, a mention and maybe a photo in a paper or two, and a handful of social media posts. Anyone hoping for more of an ego boost should consider tying their beard to a train and start pulling!

Setting a fishing record is not going to happen for most anglers. But the chance of success is there for anyone willing to research and pursue whatever opportunities are swimming about in the waters they fish. The quest to catch a record fish will be challenging, sometimes frustrating, and occasionally rewarding, but it will always be better than having someone carve an apple out of your mouth with a chainsaw! §

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