Washington bass angler Roger Davis has been trying hard to land a new state record for several years now.
He should have gotten into the book this weekend — but for another species entirely.
The North Sound fisherman caught a bucket-mouthed, near-7-pound, 8-ounce vermilion rockfish off Neah Bay on Sunday morning.
But of all the rotten luck, he thought he was still 2 ounces shy of the standing high mark.
That fish is James Duffy’s 2005 7.10-pounder, which Davis initially read as a bass angler reads weights — a 7-10.
Yesterday afternoon, after his fish had been cleaned and processed, Davis sent me an email with pics from his trip. As we were going back and forth, sorting out autocorrects, double checking WDFW’s records and doing the math in my head, I wrote, “Wait a minute, the record book listing for vermilion rockfish says 7.1 pounds. Yours would be 7.5 pounds, wouldn’t it?”
“Oh damn!!!! I read it wrong. I thought it was 7 pounds 10 oz!!! It was the state record!!! Damn!!” Davis wrote back, adding, “Oh man, I’m super bummed. I even weighed it on an official scale, and the fish and game guys were even there.”
A worker at the Cape Flattery Fisherman’s Coop today confirmed to Northwest Sportsman they’d seen the 7.49-pound digital reading themselves.
“The fish and game guys at the docks said it was the biggest one they had ever seen,” Davis added.
This time of year you’re most likely to find Davis fishing from small, rickety boats on ponds and lakes scattered around Skagit and Whatcom Counties in hopes of landing a giant prespawn female largemouth, but he also likes to head offshore on more secure craft to catch tasty halibut.
He was in Neah Bay for last Thursday’s and Saturday’s openers, fishing with two friends aboard one’s 28-foot Hewescraft, the Spunky Monkey, and spending their off days going out for rockfish.
He says the vermilion rockfish bit around 8:30 yesterday morning.
“We were jigging flies around the 100-foot-depth mark and catching every kind of rockfish on the list, especially tons of canary rockfish which we were releasing,” Davis recalls. “The big one hit down around 90 feet on a white-and-red fly. We thought it might be a ling at first, because we knew it was bigger. When we saw it, we were shocked. We checked and double checked to make sure we could retain it,” Davis says.
“On the ride back in I looked up the state record and thought it said 7 pounds 10 ounces rather than 7.10 pounds. We weighed it on an official certified scale at the commercial dock in Neah Bay and it came in at 7.49 pounds. I thought I was just shy (of the record), so we took it back to the cleaning station where it got cleaned with the rest of our catch. Too bad I didn’t realize it was 7.1 pounds!!”
Wondering if there still wasn’t an outside chance for Davis to get his vermilion into the books, I called a couple sources at WDFW and checked out the record fish application. But it sounds like the “fish and game guys” at Neah were probably creel samplers, not an area or district fish biologist, who could have officially positively identified it for species (though being a sampler would imply some knowledge of what fishes swim in Washington waters).
Still, it was a great haul and weekend overall for Davis.
“It was a stellar few days of fishing and I probably boated over 120 fish from Wednesday night through Sunday morning,” he said.
But what are the odds that someone who’s so focused on trying to get into the record book with one species gets a shot at cracking it with a different one altogether?
“I know, right?” Davis said. “Plus it was the first vermilion rockfish I’d ever caught!