As of Dec. 8, Delaware has a new state record holder for the largest striped bass landed in Delaware waters. Ben Smith of Bryn Mar, Pa., was fishing in the surf at Delaware Seashore State Park on Saturday when he reeled in a 52-pound striped bass measuring 51 inches long and 30 inches in girth.
Under the rules of the Delaware Sport Fishing Tournament, Smith’s catch was measured and weighed using a certified scale at Old Inlet Bait & Tackle in Rehoboth Beach and then verified by Sr. Cpl. Douglas Messeck of DNREC’s (Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control) Division of Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Section. According to Nathan Rust, Delaware Sport Fishing Tournament director, the former state record of 51 pounds, 8 ounces had been in place since 1978.
Smith, who grew up in New Jersey fishing in the Long Beach Island area with his dad and younger brother, was enjoying a fishing weekend with friends when he cast his line at Delaware Seashore State Park. “I never set out to set a state record. I go fishing for the love of the outdoors, time with friends and the adventure,” Smith said. “But I’m ecstatic about catching such a great fish.”
Clark Evans, a surf fishing instructor with Old Inlet, described the challenges Smith faced in landing the record striper. “A striper is known for putting on a big first run, and surviving that first run was the first hurdle,” Evans said. Using the right equipment including a circle hook and fray-resistant braided line instead of more fragile monofilament helped Smith’s battle considerably, especially in the final struggle to wrestle the fish out of the surf. “He did everything right, and even then the odds were stacked against him. I told him, ‘That’s one in a million,’” Evans said.
The Delaware Sport Fishing Tournament is an annual program sponsored by the Division of Fish and Wildlife to promote recreational fishing opportunities in the state and recognize anglers for outstanding catches. The tournament’s origins date back to the late 1930s, when the Board of Game and Fish Commissioners arranged a fishing contest with the goal of increasing interest in fresh and saltwater hook and line fishing in the state. Today, the popular tournament includes 14 categories in the freshwater division and 29 categories in the saltwater division.
For more information about the Delaware Sport Fishing Tournament, including rules and a list of state record holders, consult the 2012 Delaware Fishing Guide, call the Fisheries Section at 302-739-9914, or visit Sport Fish Tournament.
Division of Fish and Wildlife Director David Saveikis lauded two longtime partnerships that have helped with the recovery of striped bass. “This year we celebrated the 75th anniversary of Delaware’s partnership from the federal Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, which is a great model for how to accomplish cost-effective resource management funded by those who directly benefit from the resource – the anglers,” Saveikis said. “Meanwhile, we also look forward to more signs of success from another longstanding partnership between our agency and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission on Delaware’s fisheries management practices. This partnership brought striped bass back from a historic low to become a viable and healthy fishery.”