Trip’s final run ends with state record blown away by monster bull dolphin
(Aug. 2, 2019) The decision to linger a bit longer outside Poor Man’s Canyon on Sunday night proved fateful for the crew aboard Layin’ Lines and Cambridge, Maryland angler Jeff Wright, who then proceeded to catch a 72.8-pound bull dolphin that shattered the three-decade-old Atlantic Division record.
When the catch was first weighed overnight Sunday at Sunset Marina in West Ocean City it registered just over 74 pounds, but by the time Department of Natural Resources officials weighed it on Monday morning, the bull dolphin registered 72.8 pounds.
Capt. Al Hughes said his fishing boat headed out from Sunset Marina about 4 p.m. Sunday with Wright, first mate Timmy Mills Jr., mate Timmy Mills Sr., crew member Aaron Thomas and Mike Brooks aboard.
“We elected to head to Poor Man’s” he said. “There had been a little bit of a bite the previous afternoon.”
Hughes said the group, which had intended on billfishing, had a quick return that afternoon.
“We immediately caught a white marlin about a quarter of seven and continued there with good success,” he said. “We stayed there and ended up with four White Marlin by 11 p.m.”
Albeit too early for the White Marlin Open tournament, Hughes said his cohorts were energized by the wealth of marlin and opted to stay at sea a bit longer.
“Then we decided to push just a little teeny bit further offshore, just a mile or two,” he said. “We did that, and lo and behold.”
Shifting gears to reel in the record-setting dolphin proved challenging, Hughes said.
“The problem with this whole scenario … we were white marlin fishing, so were using very small rods … using 30 (pound class) reels with 30-pound test, and we hook a 75-pound fish, which is … holy crap,” he said. “It just about schooled us.”
Reassessing strategies, Hughes said the crew decided to treat the unanticipated catch like the previously-hooked marlins.
“So we started treating it as a white marlin and backing down on the fish to try to keep it at bay,” he said.
What transpired was an hour-plus battle to haul the dolphin (not to be confused with the marine mammal, and known as mahi mahi on menus everywhere) onboard.
“We had got the fish to the boat several times, but with only being able to put a minimal amount of drag on it, the fish was still ready to swim some more,” he said. “We finally got it to the boat about 12 a.m. … after about an hour and 15 minutes.”
After icing down the hefty haul, Hughes contacted Sunset Marina to request a weigh-in upon arrival.
“We were off on our weight … we didn’t know it was 74 [pounds,]” he said. “We told them we had a 60-plus pound dolphin, but it was 63-inches long.”
The anglers were amazed to learn their catch officially tipped the scales at 72.8 pounds, a full five pounds heavier than the existing common dolphin state record of 67.8 pounds set by Kim Lawson in July 1985.
On Monday, Maryland Department of Natural Resources communications officer Paul Genovese had confirmed the catch qualified for posterity.
“As of a little while ago, I just signed the papers to make it the official state record,” Hughes said.
Hughes praised the efforts of first mate Timmy Mills Jr., who assisted Wright with the record-setting haul.
“He was their mate and he really was the key man who did all of the work,” he said. “He saw the fish, he hooked the fish, he took care of the angler to make sure the fish stayed on [and] he gaffed the fish. It was a very proud moment for us.”
Additionally, Hughes said Wright was finally able to capture previously elusive glory.
“About five years ago during the White Marlin Open on my other boat [Storm Trouble] they caught a blue marlin the last couple days of the tournament,” he said. “This angler, Jeff Wright, was the same guy with us that caught that one.”
Subsequently abandoned weight requirements stymied the massive payday.
“At the time, the rule was it had to weigh 500 pounds, so it met the minimum length, but it was 15 pounds short of weight,” he said. “The very next year they changed the rules that it just had to make minimum length not the weight.”
Regardless of previously missed marks, Hughes said last weekends’ success provides fodder to encourage other anglers still seeking glory.
“We’re local and [have] lived here all our life,” he said. “Our family is local watermen. We love these stories where we live.”