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Young Angler Lands Maryland Record Grouper

Ocean City, Md. (August 14, 2012) ─ Two anglers caught Maryland record setting snowy grouper fish last month, earning each of them recognition as 2012 State record achievers. Robert Purcell, from Bishopville, caught a 56-pound snowy grouper on July 22 over the Norfolk Canyon, about 75 miles southeast of Ocean City, and held the state record for a week until he was replaced by 14-year-old Gregory Benn from Great Falls, Va. who reeled in a 66-pound grouper on July 30.

“The fish took Gregory almost to the rail at the strike,” said the boy’s father, Richard Benn. “At one point, I thought the rod might break with the drag on so hard to pull the fish out of the rocks.”

Gregory Benn and his father were aboard their boat on July 30 for a deep-drop grouper trip in about 600 feet of water when he caught the fish. Captain Dave Warren rigged a 12-ounce diamond jig to an 80-pound braided Spiderwire line, spooled on a Shimano Torium reel, on a 30-pound class rod and handed it to Gregory Benn. He later felt the fish bite.

Benn fought the big grouper for more than a half-hour before the fish came to the surface. Crewmate Robert Belcher lip gaffed the fish and brought it over the rail. Onboard, the fish measured more than 47 inches with a girth of 38 inches. The fish was weighed and certified at Sunset Marina by Maryland Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Service biologist Steve Doctor to be a new snowy grouper record.

This was not the first big snowy grouper for Gregory Benn. On July 1, he reeled in a 50-pounder from the same area. On the return to Sunset Marina, the crew learned that there was no Maryland State record for this species, but the catch could not be accepted because it had already been cleaned, cut up and packed away.

Purcell caught his record fish on July 22, while fishing with the Benns on their boat.

“The first 15 minutes were the toughest ─ the fish kept diving into a hole to get away,” said Purcell.

The current all-tackle world record is a 70-pound, 7-ounce snowy grouper caught by Roger Burnley of Virginia Beach from the Norfolk Canyon in 2011. It is also the Virginia State record since it was checked in and weighed in Newport News.

Gregory Benn and Robert Purcell will be recognized as 2012 State record achievers at the 2012 Maryland Fishing Challenge Finale and Grand Prize Drawing on September 8 at the Maryland Seafood Festival at Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis.

The Maryland Fishing Challenge is a year-round contest for all anglers in Maryland. Anglers who catch and register any of the more than 80 Maryland Angler Award eligible sport fish species receive certificates of achievement and invitations to the Grand Finale. This year’s Celebration will include chances to win a Tracker boat package boat, a tropical vacation package from the World Fishing Network, tackle packages from Bill’s Outdoor Center and Bass Pro Shops, Under Armour gear and gift cards from various sponsors.

Now in its eighth year, the Challenge showcases Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay as a premier sport fishing destination with accessible, affordable, diverse and high quality fishing for anglers of all ages─ from the crystal mountain streams, to the central Maryland lakes and the mighty Potomac River, down to the Chesapeake Bay, the Coastal Bays and the Atlantic Ocean.

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