(Jan. 9, 2015) On a pristine day in early January, five friends on a charter boat 20 nautical miles or so southeast of Ocean City saw angling history made when one hauled up a monster tautog that shattered the world record.
New York native Keith Lockwood, 49, and his friends have made the annual trip to Ocean City since 2011, each time chartering Capt. Kane Bounds and his boat Fish Bound.
“[Ocean City] is known now for big tog,” Lockwood said. “Double-digit [Tautog] is pretty common in your waters, and that’s the reason I’ve been driving down there five hours from New York City for the last few years. After the first trip, I told Capt. Kane, ‘You know what? Just give me the first weekend of January for life. Put me in your book.”
On the morning of Jan. 2, Lockwood, Dr. Daniel Yadegar, Richard O’Connell, Matty Casamassima and Benny Zickefoose boarded the Fish Bound, hoping to capitalize on the good conditions.
“It was an absolutely gorgeous day,” Lockwood said. “The forecast all week called for 10-to-15 mile winds out of the west. [On Thursday] they added five miles an hour to that, but westerly is desirable in the ocean.”
Because of an injury he sustained in his left leg and spine while assisting a stranded motorist four years ago, Lockwood, a Metropolitan Transportation Authority worker, is restricted to fishing on calm, flat days. Luckily, Mother Nature offered him just that.
“It was in the low-to-mid 40s and it was gorgeous,” he said. “It could not have been more beautiful.”
At approximately 8:30 a.m., Lockwood, using white crab as bait, felt something tug on the line. Almost immediately, “from the bite and the initial bulldogging,” he knew he had something special.
“It bit the way big fish bite,” he said. “When I thought the fish was close enough I leaned over to the side and looked down and saw color, about 15 or 20 feet below me, and I gasped. I couldn’t believe my eyes.”
Lockwood’s personal best tautog was 14 pounds, caught during a previous trip on the Fish Bound.
Coming out of the water, Bounds said the catch shocked everyone on the boat.
“We all knew it was going to be a big fish when it came up,” he said. “Initially, I was guessing the fish was probably around 21, 22 pounds looking at him, and then we put him on the scale and it was a little bit of disbelief.”
The fish topped out the 25-pound spring scale. A second scale read 29.6, and a backup digital scale claimed 29.4, more than four pounds over the previous world record tautog, caught in Ocean City, N.J. in 1998.
“The two words, ‘world record,’ were being used by guys within the first two minutes of that fish being put on the deck,” Lockwood said. “The guys I fish with, much like myself, are all dedicated tog-hounds, so we all had an idea of what the standing world record was.”
At 4:30 p.m., the boat docked at Sunset Marina and, despite losing a few ounces over the course the day, the fish still weighed in at a whopping 28.8 pounds.
Bounds spoke with a representative from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and almost immediately confirmed the state record. At press time, he was waiting for the paperwork to come back from the International Game Fish Association, confirming the world record.
“It’s definitely a world record fish, you’ve just got to go through the official process with it,” he said.
Lockwood, meanwhile, knows exactly where the fish is going.
“This is a world record,” he said. “It’s going on the wall. There’s no two ways about it. It’s the tog of all togs, and it’s a male, so it’s actually the king of all togs – until someone catches a bigger one.”
Although he already smashed the record books in 2015, Lockwood said he can’t wait to get back on the Fish Bound next year.
“I’m a fish hound, and I still love tog,” he said. “I think that your fishery [in Ocean City] provides opportunities probably like nowhere else. The wrecks that you guys have down the bottom provide the ultimate habitats for these monster fish.
“I think there still may be bigger out there,” Lockwood continued. “I’m pretty sure there is a bigger fish out there. My physical pain [from the injury] is constant, but fishing has been my lifelong love. I’d die without it.”