Freshwater striper record falls on Hudson

Albany — Like most anglers who tie into big fish, Eric Lester had the kinds of things happen that allow big fish to escape.

But a funny thing happened when the Campbell Hall (Orange County) man battled a behemoth striped bass last month on the Hudson River. Despite his reel separating from his rod, and despite the line becoming entangled in his boat’s propeller, the big fish didn’t get away.

And now Lester is the holder of the new state record striped bass in the freshwater category, a 60-pounder that easily leapfrogged the previous standard, a 55-pound, 6-ounce fish also caught in the Hudson back in 2007.

The saltwater record stands at 76 pounds, caught in 1981 off Long Island.

Lester was fishing alone on a stretch of the Hudson near Newburgh when he tied into the big striper, and managed to land the fish despite what he called “a comedy of errors” that included the reel popping off his rod.

The 32-year-old Lester was using a bloodworm as bait and hooked into the big fish at around 9:30 a.m. on May 14. He fought the fish for 10-15 minutes and managed to grab it by a gill to land it, since he had only a small net on board.

The 60-pound fish was about 55 pounds heavier than his previous big fish, so he was definitely in uncharted waters.

In fact, Lester is fairly new to the striped bass game.

Lester’s fish, a female DEC biologists estimated at 20 years old, measured 53.4 inches and had a 33-inch girth.

“This is a remarkable new record catch,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said. “I congratulate Mr. Lester on his success and determination in catching the largest recorded inland striped bass in New York and encourage others to take advantage of the many outstanding fishing opportunities New York has to offer.”

Lester submitted details of his winning fish as part of DEC’s Angler Achievement Awards Program, which tracks state record fish. Through the program anglers can enter freshwater fish that meet specific qualifying criteria and receive official recognition of their catch and a lapel pin commemorating their achievement. The three categories that make up the program are: Catch & Release, Annual Award and State Record.

Further information about the Angler Achievement Awards Program, including a downloadable application form, visit www.outdoornews.com/links .

Program details and an official entry form can also be found in DEC’s current Freshwater Fishing Regulations Guide.

For additional information on the Angler Achievement Awards Program call (518) 402-8891 or email fwfish@gw.dec.state.ny.us.

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