Eric Lester of Campbell Hall, N.Y., set a new state record for striped bass with his 60-pound, 53.4-inch catch on May 14. New York’s Department of Energy and Conservation confirmed Lester’s female striped bass as the new state record and estimated its age at roughly 20 years.
Lester’s catch shattered the old state record of 55 pounds, 6 ounces, set in 2007, and is also the largest freshwater fish caught in New York since a 69-pound, 15-ounce Muskellunge in 1957.
But it’s Lester’s story of the catch that has anglers talking.
While fishing on the Hudson River near the Newburgh-Beacon bridge, Lester’s 20-pound test line got a hit.
That’s where his story gets real interesting.
“I knew it was a big fish. I didn’t know how big it was,” Lester said. “My reel comes disconnected from my rod, so I have the reel in one hand, the rod in the other. I’m able to secure it back on and I continue to fight it, then the fish gets wrapped up in the prop of my boat.”
With equipment malfunctions and a situation quickly growing out of hand, Lester improvised to get his fish on board.
As Lester explained to CBS New York, “With this hand on the rod, I was able to stick my hand down inside of the gill of the fish, and hoist it up over the bow of the boat.”
Overall, the monster striped bass put up a 15-minute fight before finally succumbing to Lester.
“It was incredible,” he said. “Before that, the biggest fish I’d caught was five or six pounds!”
Lester’s record even grabbed the attention of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who wrote on Instagram, “From one fisherman to another, congrats to Eric Lester on catching a record-breaking, 60-pound striped bass in the Hudson River!”
While there is no denying that Lester is the new record holder—he has the fish to prove it, after all—there is some debate regarding his methods for landing the monster.
With no witnesses to confirm Lester’s story, some have been quick to label this as just another “fish story.”
Nevertheless, Lester will have a nice fish hanging on his wall by the end of the summer.
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