The current world-record striped bass of 81 pounds, 14 ounces, was caught in August of 2011 in Long Island Sound by angler Gregory Myerson. Stop and think about that for a moment: Despite the fact that striped bass have been one of our most popular coastal game fish for decades if not centuries, and despite the fact that striper populations were considered decimated in the 1980s, the record striped bass was caught less than 10 years ago. This is a good indication that even bigger bass are swimming around somewhere out there, right now – waiting for you to catch one and set a new record.
Record Striped Bass that Didn’t Set Records
You need more evidence that a record striped bass is out there? No problem. In 1995, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources while netting stripers in the Chesapeake Bay for scientific purposes hauled in a 92-pound fish. Ten years later, Arkansas angler Joe Mann caught a 53.5-inch impoundment striper with a girth of 37.25 inches, which state biologists estimated to be between 70 and 90 pounds.
In 1891, commercial fishermen recorded a weight of 125 pounds for a striper they hauled up in their nets in North Carolina. In addition to these cases, there are multiple (though unverified) other accounts of 100-pound-plus striped bass being caught by commercial fishermen. So there should be little doubt that a new world record striped bass is lurking around somewhere.
How to Catch a Record Striped Bass
Interestingly, setting aside the record-sized fish caught in nets, the two documented hook-and-line catches came on very different bodies of water, with very different techniques. Myerson’s record was caught in Connecticut waters, on a live eel. Mann’s whopper took a plastic worm which the angler fished for largemouth bass during a tournament in Arkansas.
There are countless ways to fish for stripers, the most effective of which we detail in how to catch striped bass. But the truth is that you simply never know when or where a record-sized fish will strike. That said, you certainly can try to tip the scales in your favor. For starters remember that while elephants do in fact eat peanuts, if you sit a peanut and a bale of hay in front of an elephant, it’ll go for the big meal every time. In other words: Use big baits and lures for big fish.
Eels can be particularly effective in this regard, since small stripers don’t usually go after large eels at all but bigger fish seem to love eating them. And while using oversized baits will cut down on the amount of action you may see on any given trip, eliminating the bites from average-sized fish will allow you to focus your attention solely on catching the big ones.
Where to Catch a Record Striped Bass
Again, we want to reinforce the notion that you simply never know when and where a record fish will show up. However, certain areas are known for producing very large striped bass during certain seasons. In the early spring when striped bass make their spawning runs, the Chesapeake Bay is a prime target zone for exceptionally large fish. Depending on whose statistics you believe, somewhere between half and three quarters of the entire Atlantic population of striped bass spawns in the Chesapeake and its tributaries, making it ground-zero for striper fishing in late April and early May.
Moving on into the late spring and summer months, those big fish migrate up the coast. This is when they show up in the waters of New England, first off the coast of New Jersey and then steadily making their way northward. Places like Sandy Hook, Montauk, Martha’s Vineyard, and Cape Cod all have their periods when catching a record fish becomes a real possibility.
During the fall, most stripers reverse their migration and head back down the coast. The exact timing varies quite a bit depending on weather, and the main bodies of fish often travel outside of the three-mile Federal waters limit (where the stripers are protected and fishing for them is illegal). As the weather grows colder and colder they often provide peak action off Cape Charles or Virginia Beach, sometimes pushing even farther south into North Carolina waters. They commonly over-winter in these areas, before the seasons change yet again and the pattern begins anew.
Which one of these famed areas will produce the next record striped bass? When will that 81-pound, 14-ounce fish get topped? Those questions, we certainly can’t answer. But we can say one thing for sure: There’s almost certainly a new record striped bass swimming around out there somewhere, at this very moment.