The thrilling tale of how 10-year-old Matthew Poldy caught the largest black grouper ever reeled in by a child begins with this foreboding introduction:
“I was taking a break from fishing and eating an Oreo when we saw the rod bend down.”
And so the battle was joined, on his grandfather Don Poldy’s 34-foot boat off the coast of Key West. With encouragement from his twin sister Allyson and father Greg, all from the Oak Hill area of Fairfax County, Matthew battled heroically for a tension-filled, physically draining five or six...minutes before reeling in the black grouper. Matthew, a veteran of saltwater fishing since age five, has actually had much longer battles, but not this time.
The grouper was so large that the Poldys wondered if it was a record. Greg Poldy checked his phone, because of course there’s an app for that. And he found that the junior record for a black grouper was 17.5 pounds. The Poldys headed for shore, weighed Matthew’s catch, and there it was: 23 pounds eight ounces.
Matthew and his father then went through the incredibly (though understandably) onerous task of verifying the record, which included a sworn affidavit and calling up a member of the International Game Fish Association there in Key West, who came down to the dock. And this week, after the requisite 60-day waiting/verification period, Matthew was certified with the Junior Angler World Record, Small Fry (10 and under) category, from the IGFA, for his catch on the day before Thanksgiving.
Matthew and his sister, who both started fishing in a pond in their Franklin Farms neighborhood when they were two, are now both Pee Wee Master Anglers as well, for the amount of fish they’ve caught off Key West. Matthew and Allyson are both fifth-graders at Crossfield Elementary School.
The family, including mom Janelle, travel to see the Poldy grandparents, formerly from Vienna, in Key West three or four times a year, and Greg Poldy said the twins are becoming well known in the fishing community there. Matthew actually won an adult tournament in Key West as an eight-year-old by catching and releasing 14 barracudas.
Matthew said he originally got into fishing because he liked the distinctive colors of the fish, and now he wants to get back out there and catch some more world records. He said he showed the photo of his grouper to his class at Crossfield “and they got all excited and stuff. They thought it was really cool. Not a lot of kids have caught a world record.”
The Poldys were actually planning to try for a record catch for Matthew after Thanksgiving, and on this day were focusing on Allyson catching enough to earn her Master Angler title. The day went slowly, and by the afternoon, “we were really tired,” Matthew said, ”because we really didn’t catch any fish.”
But they had picked up some yellowtailed snapper, which they used as bait to possibly lure grouper. Matthew put his rod in the holder, sat down and popped in an Oreo.
When the rod started to bend, he took it out of the holder and “it almost pulled me in.” Matthew readjusted, placed the rod in his fishing belt, and had it in the boat in five or six minutes, he said. He has previously battled a shark for an hour and 45 minutes, and has caught goliath groupers weighing hundreds of pounds, so this was not one of the all-time battles.
In addition to being 23 1/2 pounds, the grouper was almost three feet long. The family had been out for seven hours that day, but “they’ve learned if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to be patient,” Greg Poldy said.
Matthew’s career goals do not involve boring old stuff like fireman or doctor. “I’m going to try to be a fisherman,” he said quite seriously. “I want to keep fishing and catch more world records.”