9-year-old breaks Md. fishing record
Nine-year-old Emma Zajdel, pictured with her friend, Ashton Clarke, caught a 94.6-pound cobia on June 30, topping the 79-pound state record set in 2014. They were fishing on her dad, Eddie's boat, Victorious, along with Clarke's father, Robert.
Nine-year-old Emma Zajdel caught a 94.6-pound cobia on June 30, topping the state record by 15.6 pounds.
Zajdel, of West Ocean City, was fishing on her dad, Eddie’s, 24-foot Key West center console, “Victorious,” along with her best buddy, Ashton Clarke, and his father, Robert.
The group was fishing near the Jackspot when rain started to fall. As they headed into shore, they stopped around the Little Gull Shoal, about a mile off Assateague Island, where there was baitfish on top of the water. They thought some bluefish were chasing the bait.
Something took their bait, and it was Emma Zajdel’s turn to reel in a fish. When the group saw a dorsal fin, they thought it was a shark that was hooked.
Eddie Zajdel said they drove the boat toward the fish to help keep the line tight and take pressure off the rod. It took Emma about 20 minutes to get the cobia to the boat.
“I was pretty surprised how big it was. We all thought it was a shark at first,” Emma said.
Once they got it onto the boat it “went ballistic and flipped all around,” Eddie said.
“They’re known to do that,” he added.
The cobia was so big – it measured 66.5 inches – only half of it fit into the boat’s fish box.
“It was the biggest cobia I’ve seen,” Eddie said. “It was only the second one I’ve caught.”
His first cobia encounter was a few years ago. That fish was released.
When they got back to shore last Thursday, scales were closed so they took it to Sunset Marina in West Ocean City the next morning to be weighed. It was also inspected by Steve Doctor of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
Eddie Zajdel mailed in the paperwork earlier this week to formally certify the catch for the record books. DNR maintains state records for sport fish in three divisions – Atlantic, Chesapeake and freshwater – and awards plaques to anglers who achieve new record catches.
“It’s still considered ‘pending.’ The paperwork was the last part they needed,” he said Tuesday.
Jack Latimer of Potomac, Maryland, has held the record since 2014 with his 79-pound cobia landed about a mile and a half east of the Ocean City inlet. The fish was 60 inches long with a girth of 30 inches.
Zajdel’s 94.6-pound cobia was 66.5 inches overall with a 30-inch girth. She is only 52 inches tall and weighs about 65 pounds.
“She’s very humble about it,” Eddie said. “She doesn’t really understand how big this is. She just wants to catch another fish.”
Standing next to the fish as it was hanging on the scale, Emma said she “thought it was really big and really cool.”
The Ocean City Elementary School soon-to-be fourth grader has been going out on boats since she was a baby, her father said. She has been fishing inshore in bays and ponds since she could hold a rod, he added. Emma was about 5 years old when she made her first offshore trip.
“She’s been on the water her whole life,” Eddie said.
“I like catching fish and then eating them,” Emma said. “We ate [the cobia] already. It tasted very good.”
The 94.6-pound cobia is a pending International Game Fish Association (IGFA) Small Fry (children up to 10 years old) World Record as well. The current record is 48 pounds.