NORTHFIELD — This year’s Mid-Atlantic $500,000 fishing tournament is scheduled for Aug. 20-25 in Cape May and Ocean City, Maryland.
Boat captains looking for the best angler to help them win may want to give Keegan Rothman a call.
Rothman is only 10 but already has developed a knack for reeling in fish bigger than your couch.
Two years after catching a 600-pound white sturgeon in Canada, he hit the fishing jackpot again a few weeks ago when he caught a 400-pound blue marlin in Mexico.
“I know people who have been fishing for 40 years and have never caught a blue marlin,” Keegan’s father, Dan Rothman, said Friday. “Heck, I’m 51 and have been fishing all my life, and I’ve only caught one. I got a 275-pounder about 15 years ago. And I haven’t heard of anyone who has ever caught a white sturgeon and blue marlin.
The weights of both fish were estimates based on their length and girth.
Because the sturgeon was dragged onto a sand bar before being released, Dan was able to take some pictures of it.
Other than a video of Keegan reeling in the blue marlin, however, no photos were taken. Dan refused to allow the captain and his mate to bring the fish onto the boat, knowing that it would be impossible to release it at that point.
Keegan, a fifth-grade student at Northfield Community School, caught the blue marlin Feb. 25 while on a fishing excursion to Zihuatanejo, Mexico, a city located about 150 miles northwest of Acapulco on the Pacific Coast.
Keegan earned the trip as a reward for making straight A’s for the marking period, just as he did when the family traveled to British Columbia in 2015.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of luck involved in what Keegan was able to do,” Dan Rothman said. “Not many people have the opportunity to go after those kinds of fish, and those who can never expect to catch fish that size.
“But there’s also skill involved. The luck is getting the 600-pound sturgeon and the 400-pound blue marlin. But you need skill, patience and the ability follow directions to catch it.”
Keegan caught several types of fish during the trip but then hooked onto a blue marlin that shot out of the water about 100 yards away from the 19-foot boat.
Keegan fought the fish for 88 minutes, refusing to let anyone else touch the rod and reel. He relied on a technique that he developed when he first began fishing at age 5 in which he anchors the pole under his leg for stability and support.
“I wanted to catch it myself,” Keegan said. “I wanted to be able to say I caught a blue marlin that was bigger than the one my dad caught.”
He also took the same approach when he caught the white sturgeon on the Fraser River in Canada in July 2015.
Keegan fought that fish for more than two hours, again declining to let anyone else help.
“Catching the sturgeon was harder,” Keegan said. “I felt like I had run the Boston Marathon by the time I was finished.”
Dan Rothman taught his son how to fish at an early age.
Keegan was born with a heart condition that prompted frequent visits to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and a cardiologist. Although his heart has gotten stronger over the years, doctors have advised against him playing contact sports such as football or wrestling.
Keegan plays baseball, basketball and ice hockey, but he learned how to fish before he learned how to throw a fastball.
“He learned how to fish in our backyard,” Dan said with a laugh. “I would tie toys on the end of the line, and he would cast off our deck to our German shepherds. The dogs would grab the toys and run all over the yard, and Keegan would run up and down the deck to keep up with them.”