Mississippi boy on first saltwater fishing trip lands record speckled trout

Published 7:52 am Sunday, June 28, 2020

It was his first time to fish in saltwater, but a Sumrall boy walked away with a fish tale he’ll never forget.

Maddox McDaniel, 11, and his father Wade McDaniel were fishing with Jeremy McHugh of Stillwater Fishing Charters out of Long Beach and were targeting speckled trout. That’s when the younger McDaniel’s rod bent hard.

“Watching my son’s face when he hooked it, he knew it was a big fish,” McDaniel said. “He reached up and grabbed the middle of the rod like the fish was going to jerk it out of his hands.”

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They knew it was big, but they didn’t know what it was. Then it surfaced. It was a large speckled trout.

“I was pretty excited,” McDaniel said. “My son was ecstatic.

“When he saw it he freaked out. When it got to the top of the water Jeremy said, ‘Holy cow, it’s a monster.’”

State record fish, youth division

McHugh scrambled to get the landing net and got the fish and got it in the boat. They celebrated and McDaniel resumed fishing. However, McHugh started wondering if it could be a state record in the youth division.

“To qualify for the youth division record, it has to beat half the adult record,” McHugh said. “I texted a buddy and asked him to check it.”

The adult record is 10 pounds, 10 ounces. So, McDaniel’s fish needed to weigh at least 5 pounds, 5 ounces to qualify, something no other youth has done. When McHugh weighed it, the scale read 5 pounds, 7 ounces. McDaniel had the record.

McHugh offered to take the fish to a Department of Marine Resources employee to have it officially weighed in Biloxi. That’s when the disappointment came.

“She really didn’t know what the weight needed to be,” McHugh said. “I told her it needed to be 5-5 and she said it was 5-3-5.

“I said, ‘Well, that’s it.’ I called the dad and told him we missed it.”

A fish on the wall, a tale to tell

McDaniel said he and his son were disappointed, but they still intended to have the big fish mounted to remember a great day on the water. What no one realized at the time was McHugh and the DMR employee were not on the same page.

McHugh received another call from someone at DMR who explained the confusion. McHugh was talking about pounds and ounces and the person who weighed the trout was using pounds and tenths of pounds. The fish actually weighed 5.35 pounds, or 5 pounds, 5.6 ounces, narrowly qualifying for the state record.

The fish was caught in May and according to protocol, was certified as the youth division record during the department’s June commission meeting.

For Maddox McDaniel, it is a big fish on the wall, a tale to tell and his name in the record book. For McHugh, it was a longtime goal achieved. He said he always wanted to catch state records for tarpon and speckled trout. While he didn’t do it himself, he’s managed to put clients on both records.

“It’s not the way I saw it happening,” McHugh said. “I wanted them for myself, but this was even better.”