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Retired major general reels in major fish on the Chesapeake

Because Warren Magruder wasn't willing to part with a perfectly good bucktail lure Tuesday morning, he has a fish tale that might be told for years.

While trolling off Gibson Island at Belvidere Shoal, he latched onto a black drum, 50-inches long, 36-inches around and weighing about 70 pounds.

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At first, he though he had hooked a ray. The common response by most fishermen is to cut the line.

"But I didn't want to lose that bucktail," said Magruder, who was fishing alone. So he fought on, a natural inclination for a retired Army major general.

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Several times during the 20-minute struggle, the 82-year-old Pasadena resident thought he'd have to cut and run. "I have a 23-foot, center-console boat. He pulled my boat around and around," Magruder said.

He doubled down on his new Avet two-speed reel to make cranking easier. Then the fish's head broke the surface of the water.

"Oh my," Magruder recalled thinking.

Once he got the fish to the side of the boat, the general faced a logistical nightmare: getting the fish in the boat.

"I dipped my net down under him and got on my knees and finally rolled him in," he said.

Back on shore at his Bodkin Creek home, the retired general retired for the day. "I'm exhausted," he told me on the phone.

Neighbor Jack Streb spread the word, neighbors took photos and helped clean the fish--a garden hoe was enlisted to help with the scaling operation.

For Magruder, a fisherman since the 1930s, this was the first black drum he'd caught above the Bay Bridge.

The state record for black drum in the Chesapeake Bay is 103 pounds, 8 ounces, set in 1973. It was caught at Buoy 16 in the Choptank River.

Marty Gary, a state fisheries biologist, says black drum can be found in Eastern Bay at the southern end of Kent Island.

"I'd say that fish was pretty much at the northern edge of its range," Gary said. "It's kind of a drought year and salinity may be up. If you were going to catch one far north, this would be the year.

"It's an awesome story, an old man and the sea tale," said Gary. "It's really impressive."

Retired major general reels in major fish on the Chesapeake
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