At 8 months pregnant, Destin freediver, 40, lands pending world record fish with polespear

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

It's one thing to be 40 and freediving with a polespear, but to be eight months pregnant and nail a pending world record black drum is a whole other thing. 

Destin's Julie Augustine did just that Oct. 1.  

"It was crazy, that's not how I anticipated my day starting, but what an adventure," Augustine said. 

Augustine shot a 37.6-pound black drum with a 9-foot Bermudian slip tip polespear while freediving.

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

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Julie Augustine shows off her 37.6-pound black drum she nailed with the 9-foot Bermudian slip tip polespear. The fish is a pending world record.

'Do you want to go find a world record?'

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

"It's looking really clear. ... You should be able to handle the conditions today, if you want to come along. I won't be out that long," was how the conversation went, she said. 

D'Agostino had moved the boat to Joe's Bayou in advance of Hurricane Ian, but on his way back he saw a school of fish that looked like it had some sizeable fish in it. When he pulled up to the marina to pick up Augustine, he told her to grab the polespear. 

"Do you want to go find a world record?" he asked. 

Julie Augustine was all smiles as she got back on the boat with Capt. Joe D'Agostino.

"I said ... ‘Yes, I do,' and that's what happened," Augustine said. 

They were in Choctawhatchee Bay, but like all fishermen, D'Agostino wasn't giving away any specifics. 

"I don't want to say too much, because we don't want to give our spot away," D'Agostino said.  

However, he did say it was shallow at about 8- to 10-feet deep. 

"They weren't quite where they were, but we went hunting and found them," Augustine said. 

She said visibility was difficult. 

"There were some fish that were bigger than the one I got. On the surface they were clearly visible, you could see their shape, but then when I got in the water, I couldn't see the tip of my spear," she said. 

Then her fish came by. 

"I saw its shadow. In the water and from my vantage point it was a big shadow. So, I took a shot and it was a good shot. I brought it up and I was hoping and praying," Augustine said. 

The polespear doesn't shoot with a trigger, Augustine explained. She said it uses the force generated by the release of the polespear.

"It's very primitive," she said.

45-second battle

Augustine was freediving and down under about 45 seconds or so. After she landed the fish, they brought it down to the Destin Fishing Rodeo to get an official weight on the fish for certification. Weighmaster Bruce Cheves called it 37.8 pounds. 

"It was such a fun experience," she said. "We needed that certified scale to make it perfect, but it was fun to represent that sport as well."

Augustine, who swam in college, has only been freediving polespear fishing for a couple of years. 

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

"It was supposed to be temporarily," she said. 

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But that summer she took a level one free diving course through Benthic Ocean Sports. 

"I fell in love with the sport and started freediving. So, I've been doing it since the summer of 2020," she said. 

Destin's Julie Augustine brought here black drum by the Destin Fishing Rodeo to weigh. She nailed the fish freediving with a 9-foot polespear. It is also a pending world record.

During the last couple of years, she has speared a couple of dozen fish. 

About three months ago, at five months pregnant, she went out on what she thought would be her last spearfishing adventure until after giving birth. She had speared a red snapper at 70 feet down that was just shy of the world record. 

"What a bummer," she said. "So, when this opportunity came up, I couldn't say no."  

Baby Finn is due Nov. 15

Augustine, who is a physician's assistant at the Crane Center in Destin, said her due date is Nov. 15 and it's a boy. 

"I'm going to name him Finn," she said. 

Is she concerned about diving at eight months pregnant? 

"My baby's health and safety are, have been and will always be my top priority. I'm blessed to have had a relatively healthy pregnancy. I listen to my body and work closely with my obstetrician to ensure 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. 

"This is not the year I was expecting, but it's just been a blessing in so many ways," she said. 

As for the possible record, she is in the process of getting the credentials and all the paperwork filled out to send in. 

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