Blackfish, Fishbound, Maryland 1: Ron McClelland caught this 24-pound blackfish aboard the Fish Bound out of Ocean City, Md. in April of 2018. Mate Kevin Twilley helps hoist the beast. Photo courtesy of Fish Bound Charters.
Blackfish, Fish Bound 2: Edward Santiago caught this 21-pound ’tog aboard Capt. Kane Bounds’ Fish Bound out of Ocean City, Md. Photo courtesy of Fish Bound Charters.
Blackfish, Ken Westerfield, World Record: Ken Westerfield caught this IGFA all tackle world record blackfish out of Ocean City, Md. in January 2015. It weighed 28 pounds, 8 ounces.
Winter Bulldogs Out Of Ocean City, Maryland
Kenneth Westerfeld was expecting a big blackfish when he set up on a solid, single-tug while wreck fishing out of Ocean City, Md. back in January of 2015. What he wasn’t expecting was a new International Game Fish Association (IGFA) world record at the end of the line.
“We were into big blackfish right off the bat,” explained the Queens, N.Y. angler, “and I knew immediately when I set the hook that this was a double-digit white chin. I got three quick turns on the reel and then all I could do was hold the rod high and tight while she dove for the wreck. More than half way to the top, however, she got a second wind and tore 40 feet of line from my drag, which was nearly locked tight. I couldn’t believe the power. That’s when I knew this one was more than special.”
When the monstrous bulldog finally hit the deck, Westerfeld was stunned by its size. Back at Sunset Marina in Ocean City, the huge white chin officially tipped the scales at 28 pounds, 8 ounces. That blackfish, still the all tackle world record for the tough-lipped bottom feeders, was decked aboard Capt. Kane Bounds’ six-pack charter boat Fish Bound, a vessel on which Westerfeld has taken several ’teen-sized bulldogs over the years.
“I’m convinced there’s even bigger blackfish in Maryland waters,” he said. “A couple of years ago, an experienced SCUBA diver reported seeing two giant blackfish on an offshore reef there—the smaller one he estimated at 30 pounds.”
Capt. Kane agrees that bigger fish probably lurk in the 80- to 150-foot depths where he concentrates most of his blackfish efforts. “I think our ’tog have a little longer growing season than up north,” he reasoned. “That makes a difference with a fish that can live more than 30 years. In 2017 alone, we had five that broke the 20-pound mark. Three of those were released.”
You’ll want to fish heavy in these waters if giant ’tog are your target. Bounds recommended conventional outfits with smooth drags and 50- to 60-pound test braided lines. He also goes big on hooks, choosing 5/0 and 6/0 sizes over more traditional 3/0 and 4/0 selections. Expect to need 8 to 12 ounces of lead to get to the bottom.
Monster blackfish bite right through the winter months, with many of the largest fish decked each year in February, March and April.
Westerfeld advised anglers looking for the blackfish of a lifetime to use fluorocarbon leaders no matter which rigs or hooks they choose.
“Maryland’s waters are pretty clear in the winter and low visibility fluorocarbon leaders really provide an edge,” he said. “Seaguar’s 60-lb. test Blue Label fluorocarbon leaders have worked well for me. They have great abrasion resistance and impact strength, plus very little stretch—three things you really need with these brutes.”
By Tom Schlichter