When I first saw the photo of the 81-pound striped bass that Greg Myerson caught on August 4th, my eyes grew wide and my freaking jaw dropped. When I heard he caught the fish right where I grew up fishing, I was kind of stoked, but more jealous.
Myerson lives in North Branford, Connecticut, the same town where my parents have owned a business for more than 40 years. And he was fishing out of Westbrook, Connecticut, which is just one town over from where we kept our boat growing up. Odds are his 81-pound striped bass was hanging around back when I was fishing Meigs Point, Duck Island, the Race and the Connecticut River, all less than 10 miles from where Myerson landed that freaking monster of a bass. If I sound envious, I am.
According to the local news reports that my parents immediately sent me when they heard about the fish, Myerson is known around town as a fishing fanatic. He goes out in search of stripers just about every night. (Striped bass bite best in the dark.) But to catch such a whopper in the first week of August in Long Island Sound is downright astonishing. The best bite of the season, especially for the big fish, is usually in the fall when they start migrating south to their spawning grounds in the Hudson River and Chesapeake Bay. The absolute hardest time of the year to catch striped bass is in the dog days of summer, right when this potential record took the hook.
There will be naysayers and disbelievers. I guarantee it. Jealous guys like me are going to boo and hiss at Myerson’s catch. The same thing happened to Albert McReynolds, the current world-record holder who caught a 78.8-pound striped bass in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1982. McReynolds got hate mail and constantly accused of cheating and lying about his world-record catch. But he persevered, took the notoriety in stride and made a good bit of cash off that catch.
For those of you who don’t live on the East Coast, striped bass are the ultimate trophy fish because anyone can catch one. You don’t need a fancy boat or a six-figure bank account. You just need to go fishing. You can catch 50-pound striped bass from shore. There’s not many fish out there that get that big and like to hang out on the rocks just off the beach. But that’s just one way to catch a bass. You can also troll for them, catch them on the fly, target them in the deep, find them on the flats and sandbars or under a bridge… And at one point, striped bass were almost extinct.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, you couldn’t buy a striped bass. They had been nearly wiped out. The state governments and feds put a moratorium on the fish as a last-ditch effort to save the species — you could not kill them. They came back with a vengeance. The striped bass is a symbol that good fishery management can work, and Myerson’s 81.88-pound catch is the proof.
I spent hours and hours chasing striped bass from the breachways in Rhode Island up to the Elizabethan Islands off Massachusetts. The biggest one I ever caught was a 47-pounder that I hooked on a live scup in Quick’s Hole. That fish was a freaking monster, and I didn’t even care that it was three pounds short of the magical 50-pound mark. To think that Myerson’s fish nearly doubles my trophy bass is honestly hard to comprehend. The fact that he caught it while fishing my old stomping grounds is even tougher to digest. But I believe that he did it. He put his time in, used the right gear (a St. Croix rod, a Quantum Cabo reel and what he called a “monster live eel” fished on a three-way swivel) and he was prepared for his catch of a lifetime. In the report I read, he said he always carries “a very large net.” That made me smile.
Get ready for the naysayers, cynics and party poopers Mr. Myerson, but don’t listen to them. Sit back and enjoy the moment.
The world-record application has been sent to the International Game Fish Association, the official record-keepers of sport fishing. After the IGFA completes its due diligence, the agency will make a ruling on whether or not this 81.88-pound monster of a bass will stand as the new world record. I certainly hope it does.