Pregnant Florida freediver casts pending world record fish

DESTINY, Florida. – It’s one thing to be 40 and snorkel with a boom, but to be eight months pregnant and land a world record pending black drum is quite another.

Julie Augustine of Destin did just that on October 1.

“It was crazy, not how I anticipated the start of my day, but what an adventure,” Augustine said.

Augustine shot a 37.6-pound black drum with a 9-foot Bermudan slip-tip pole while snorkeling.

According to the International Underwater Spearfishing Association, the current black drum record in the Sling/Polespear division for a female diver is a 36.3-pound shot by Lucie Cardet of the United States on July 19, 2018.

‘Do you want to go find a world record?’

Augustine had the opportunity to dive when she received a call from her friend Joe D’Agostino, who asked her if she wanted to go out on the boat.

“It seems really clear. … You should be able to handle today’s conditions if you want to come. I won’t be away that long,” she said.

D’Agostino had moved the boat to Joe’s Bayou before Hurricane Ian, but on the way back he saw a school of fish that appeared to contain some fairly large fish. When he stopped at the marina to pick up Augustine, he told her to grab the pole.

“Do you want to go for a world record? He asked.

“I said… ‘Yes, I do’ and that’s what happened,” Augustine said.

They were in Choctawhatchee Bay, but like all fishermen, D’Agostino gave no details.

“I don’t want to say too much, because we don’t want to give up our place,” D’Agostino said.

However, he said it was shallow at around 8-10 feet deep.

“They weren’t quite where they were, but we went hunting and found them,” Augustine said.

She said the visibility was difficult.

“There were fish that were bigger than the one I got. On the surface they were clearly visible, you could see their shape, but when I entered the water I couldn’t see the tip of my spear,” she said.

Then his fish passed.

“I saw his shadow. In the water and from my point of view it was a big shadow. So, I took a hit and it was a good hit. I brought it up and I was hoping and praying,” Augustine said.

The polespear doesn’t fire with a trigger, Augustine explained. She said he uses the force generated by the release of the Pole Spear.

“It’s very primitive,” she said.

45 second battle

Augustine was snorkeling and descending under about 45 seconds or so. After landing the fish, they took it to Destin Fishing Rodeo to get an official weight on the fish for certification. Weigher Bruce Cheves called it 37.8 pounds.

“It was such a fun experience,” she said. “We needed that certified ladder to make it perfect, but it was also fun to represent the sport.”

Augustine, who swam in college, has only been snorkeling for a few years.

She was in the military and stationed in the area a long time ago and came back to the area during COVID.

“It was meant to be temporary,” she said.

But that summer, she took a level one freediving course with Benthic Ocean Sports.

“I fell in love with this sport and started freediving. So I’ve been doing it since the summer of 2020,” she said.

Over the past two years, she’s speared a few dozen fish.

About three months ago, when she was five months pregnant, she embarked on what she thought would be her last spearfishing adventure until giving birth. She had speared a red snapper 70 feet deep that was just short of the world record.

“What a disappointment,” she said. “So when this opportunity came up, I couldn’t say no.”

Baby Finn is due November 15

Augustine, who is a medical assistant at the Crane Center in Destin, said her due date was November 15 and it was a boy.

“I’ll call him Finn,” she said.

Is she worried about diving in at eight months pregnant?

“My baby’s health and safety is, has been and always will be my top priority. I am lucky to have had a relatively healthy pregnancy. I listen to my body and work closely with my obstetrician to ensure that any activity I or we participate in is safe for both of us. If at any point that changes, so will my activities, in or out of the water,” she said.

“It’s not the year I expected, but it’s been a blessing in so many ways,” she said.

As for the possible registration, she is in the process of obtaining the credentials and all the completed documents to send.

But the fish, “we cut it up and I looked up many black drum recipes. The meat looks fantastic on this one,” she said.

For additional copyright information, see the distributor of this article, Northwest Florida Daily News (Fort Walton Beach, Fla.).

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