A Pennsylvanian now holds the Delaware state record for striped bass.
Ben Smith, of Bryn Mar, was fishing Dec. 8 in the surf at Delaware Seashore State Park when he hooked into a 52-pound striped bass measuring 51 inches long and 30 inches in girth.
Smith, who grew up in New Jersey fishing in the Long Beach Island area with his father and younger brother, was enjoying a fishing weekend with friends when he caught the huge stripers.
“I never set out to set a state record. I go fishing for the love of the outdoors, time with friends and the adventure,” he said. “But I’m ecstatic about catching such a great fish.”
Under the rules of the Delaware Sport Fishing Tournament, Smith’s catch was measured and weighed on a certified scale at Old Inlet Bait & Tackle in Rehoboth Beach and then verified by Sr. Cpl. Douglas Messeck of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.
According to Nathan Rust, director of the Delaware Sport Fishing Tournament director, the former state record of 51 pounds, 8 ounces had been in place since 1978.
While “the odds were stacked against” Smith, “he did everything right,” according to Clark Evans, a surf fishing instructor with Old Inlet.
“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.
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.