His Record's Gone, But Fish Story Keeps Growing Candy.thomson@baltsun.com

ON THE OUTDOORS

August 23, 2009|By Candus Thomson

OCEAN CITY - Fishing records are as permanent as an ice cube on a city sidewalk in August.

In a blink of an eye, marks that once seemed unreachable are gathered in and tossed away.

That's not the case in other sports. Sometimes, it takes a plugger like baseball's Pete Rose years to grind out the hits to pass Ty Cobb's long-standing benchmark of 4,191. And challengers to Ted Williams' .406 season average (the last such mark above .400) and Joe DiMaggio's record hitting streak of 56 games - both set in 1941 - learn every year just how formidable those numbers are.

Mother Nature has a lot to do with fishing records. Cold, heat, sun, clouds, barometric pressure, salinity, turbidity and words I can't spell all go into the recipe. Then add tackle, line, lure and net. And let's not forget the scientific "right place at the right time" part of the equation.

For 20 years, those elements kept alive the state blue marlin record set by Jim Daniel, a Salisbury chiropractor, during the White Marlin Open. At 942 pounds, the good doctor's first blue marlin was the biggest. Until this month, anglers had come close but had not surpassed the weight.

In 2004, Allen Roys turned heads at the weigh station at Harbour Island Marina with a fish that weighed 895 pounds. Last year, Robert Lockwood came closer at 935.5 pounds.

Then, on Aug. 5, along came Robert Ferris of Charlotte, N.C., who after a fight of more than three hours reeled in a 1,062-pound blue marlin. The fish was worth $454,999 at the 36th annual White Marlin Open.

(The Associated Press reported that Ferris "snagged" the blue marlin, as if it were a fly ball or a Frisbee, not something bigger than a Harley-Davidson. Geez.)

Just like that, Daniel was off the books.

"I guess I was surprised it didn't get broken sooner," Daniel said. "I was a little sad, but I didn't lose sleep over it. It was a good run."

What makes Daniel's catch such a good one is the lore surrounding it, even years later.

People in Ocean City will tell you that Daniel and friends set out to sea in a glorified johnboat with a 10-horsepower Evinrude lashed to its stern. The doctor returned near the end of the day with a huge fish overwhelming the tiny vessel, water slopping over the gunwales. Daniel, the story goes, had never seen a blue marlin before.

Great story, right doc?

Daniel chuckles before answering, "After 20 years, it got stretched."

The boat, though not a luxury yacht, was a 28-foot Bertram skippered by Capt. Marty Moran that had cruised to the deep canyons off the coast many times on shark fishing trips. And Daniel had seen many marlin reeled in, but never when it was his turn to sit in the fighting chair.

On Aug. 8, 1989, Daniel and a handful of friends set out for Poor Man's Canyon, 64 miles offshore. This time, when the big fish took the bait, it was his turn.

The fight took less than an hour.

"It did a lot of jumps. On the final jump, it hit the surface and died. We just pulled alongside it," Daniel said. "We were surprised by how big it was. We'd never seen a fish that big. We didn't have anything to judge it by. We were hoping for 500, 600 pounds."

Getting the behemoth aboard took nearly twice as long as catching it because the boat, Memory Maker, didn't have a hatch on the stern - called a tuna door - to slide the fish through. Instead, all six anglers hauled the fish over the side with the help of a small block-and-tackle. The marlin "stuck out of the boat - both ends," Daniel said.

The more than 60-mile ride in was uneventful. The water was flat and calm.

They arrived back in Ocean City about 1:30 p.m., long before the weigh station was open. So they decided to fish some more.

One problem. "There was no room for that," Daniel said. "We had to take the chair out, and still we were full."

In addition to being too big for the boat, the mount was too big for the doctor's living room. So it hangs on the wall at the Ocean City Marlin Club.

"So many things have to work right to land a fish that big," Daniel said. "But that new record could hang around for a while."

Some Maryland records might never be broken. Hickory shad and white shad are protected while stocks rebuild. The same is true of the dusky shark and sand tiger shark.

Maryland's longest-standing Atlantic records are: spotted sea trout (Jack Miller, 13 pounds, Aug. 21, 1973), summer flounder (Anthony Vacari, 17 pounds, Oct. 3, 1974) and bluefish (Lillian Morris, 23 pounds, 8 ounces, Oct. 30, 1974). The oldest Maryland record of any kind is a Chesapeake Bay mark: a 6-pound, 8-ounce chain pickerel caught in the Susquehanna River on May 19, 1965, by James Grant. The freshwater granddaddy is an 8-pound, 4-ounce smallmouth bass caught in Liberty Reservoir by Gary Peters on Oct. 4, 1974.

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