On June 30, 9-year-old Emma Zajdel of Ocean City, Md., caught a 94.6-pound, 66.5-inch cobia, about 1.5 miles east of Assateague Island. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has now confirmed the fish as the new state record, besting a 79-pounder caught in 2014.
The fish may also be certified as an International Game Fish Association record in the “Smallfry” category, reserved for anglers younger than 10. The current cobia record for that category is 48 pounds.
Emma; her father, Ed; his friend Robert Clark; and Emma’s friend Ashton Clark were trolling for bluefish near Little Gull Shoals when the cobia struck. Robert took the rod from its holder and handed it to Emma, who placed it in the fighting belt she was wearing in case she hooked something big.
The decision paid off. The fish made a sudden, strong run, and Emma set the hook.
“At first, we thought it was a shark…,” she told DelmarvaNow. “I could hear the reel and the drag, and I thought I could go over the side.”
Emma fought the huge cobia for 20 minutes. “When she got the fish in, and we lifted it on board,” her father said, “it went ballistic. Emma and Ashton scurried to the front of the boat, while Robert and I wrestled the fish into the fish box and iced it down.”
The next day, they had the fish weighed on a certified scale in the presence of DNR fisheries biologist Steve Doctor, who confirmed its weight.
After that, the Zajdels took the cobia home to eat. “It tasted very good,” Emma told DelmarvaNow.
It’s worth noting that Emma, at 65 pounds and 52 inches tall, is about 30 pounds lighter and 15 inches shorter than her record haul.