The following is a first-person account we recieved via email from IGFA rep. Dr. Ken Neill, III...
We had a good day catching tautog on the 4A Dry Dock the day before. We caught 32 fish up to 15 pounds and had several other fish that we just could not get up. My plan was to head back there in the morning. I had a different crew coming. Roy, who has fished with me a few times, and some of his friends were going to meet me at the boat at 6 AM. 6:15 and there was no Roy. I did not have Roy’s cell number nor did he have mine. I went on out on my own. They arrived at the slip about 3 minutes later. We have each other’s cells now.
It is a bit tricky trying to anchor on a wreck by yourself. I used to do it all the time in smaller boats but do not much anymore on the current Healthy Grin. I decided to change wrecks and ran to the Morgan because that one is a lot easier getting on right, solo. I got anchored up but was not right where I wanted to be. If I had a crew, we would have re-anchored. By myself, I stayed put and casted a little way to the structure.
It was clear when I ran out. Soon the fog rolled in and I could hear ship fog horns but could not see anything. The sea bass were relentless. My morning was not going well. I did manage to catch two, 15-inch tog mixed in with all of the sea bass. Tagged and released those. By 11:00, I was running out of crabs. I had plenty of clams but fishing with that was impossible with the sea bass. I was leaving the top shell on the crab and just cutting it in halves and quarters, and punching the hook through the shell. That slowed the sea bass down enough to give the tautog a chance.
A fish set down on the bait, an impressive tog bite. I knew it was a big fish but did not know how big. After the 3rd or 4th time of working that fish up and then having it just go right back down, I knew it was bigger than the 15-pound fish that I caught the day before. I still did not think it was this big until I slid the net under it and lifted it into the boat. That is when I saw just how big it was and started thinking about a possible record. It looked over 24 pounds on my Boga Grip but with the swells and a live fish, it was hard to tell.
I decided my fishing day was done. I used the self-timer thing to get some photos and ran on in. When I got in range, I was sending messages of a possible record to everyone. Danny Forehand left his house and met me at the dock along with Inlet Station Marina owner, Cason Barco. I put the fish on my scale and it was about 24.5 pounds. I called the VSWFT Director, Lewis Gillingham and told him that I had the next state-record tautog. I met him (with a lot of help from Danny, hauling coolers and such) at the VMRC building. On the digital scale, the fish weighed 24.22 pounds which converts to 24 pounds 3 ounces. It is 32 inches long.
The i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed so this should be the new Virginia state record once the application is processed. The one photo is of my fish next to the mount of the current, 24-pound state record. That fish was caught in 1987 by Greg Bell. His fish was the the IGFA All-Tackle World Record for many years until a 25-pound tautog was caught off of New Jersey in 1998.