Andrew Demas of Charleston was targeting black sea bass on Sunday, March 15, when he ran out to the Charleston Inshore Reef with his parents, Geri and Bill, to try out their new boat. The big catch of the trip, however, was a huge black drum that would almost certainly have broken the state record had they not released it.

Demas landed a black drum that was 42 inches long and had a girth of 43 inches. Not wanting to further stress the huge fish – and having no idea what the state-record was – he released it alive.

Later, using a set of calculations to determine the fish’s weight, Dumas came up with 97 pounds, pounds larger than the existing record, an 89-pound fish caught in Port Royal Sound in 1978 by William Buquet.

“I was excited to take the new SeaFox out with my parents for some quick black sea bass action,” said Demas. “We targeted black sea bass using cut shrimp as bait on light tackle; something quick-paced and easy just to catch a good number of fish in the new boat.”

The Demas’ stopped at the Charleston Inshore Reef, about 3 miles off the beach in 30 feet of water. After catching several black sea bass, they were about to pick up and move, when Andrew Demas looked over and saw a fish jerking his mom’s rod violently. He hustled over, set the hook and realized it was into something a bit larger than a black sea bass.

“I picked it up, and the line began to peel off at a quick pace. I knew this was a better fish because it was pulling drag,” said Demas, who fought the fish for 30 minutes. “The fish was in control the entire time. I never thought I’d be able to reel in a fish that big with a medium-action rod with only 20-pound braid.”

Demas worked this fish to the surface and saw it was a huge black drum, but then the fish sounded. When he carefully worked it back to the surface, it was tired enough to bring aboard.

“I couldn’t believe what I had reeled in,” said Demas. “He was so heavy when I had him on my lap for a picture. There was no point in weighing him with my scale that only went up to 30 pounds.

“At the time, I had no clue he would have been a possible state record,” said Demas.  “He was an old fish, so I wanted to respect him and get him back in the water quickly.” 

After about 10 minutes of having water flow across its gills, the fish made a good take off and swam away strong. 

“I believe in beginner’s luck,” Demas said. “I'll never forget the day I landed a potential state record on the smallest rod we had.  It will be just another fish tale I'll pass along to those who care to listen.”