Ben Smith holds the pending Delaware State Striped Bass record at 52 pounds

red hake, cape henlopen state park
Identified as a red hake … caught in Cape Henlopen State Park by Nick Kiessling

Well it has been a slow week.  Not much to report, but the same thing.  Stripers, some blues, ling cod, and even redfish still in the surf.  Otherwise it has been dogfish, skates, or donuts.  Bunker has been the bait of choice for the most part. People have been drifting live eels as well.  I talked to a friend the other night that works charter and head boats, and it has been funny out there, in an annoying way.   “We are drifitng on “the chunk” and everyone else is producing on live eels, next day we use live eels, and fish are hitting chunks.  Next day drift both, and we catch fish … on both baits.  Go figure.”  Striped bass are on the move, and not really hanging around, heading south.  The boys in Jersey are still pulling nice 30 plus inch bass in the surf.  The water is cooling off, but there is still warm water farther out front.  Blue Fin Tuna were caught off the coast of Massachusetts a few days ago.  I talked to another friend that works on some charters in  Delaware (6 days ago) … “Cape may rips produced today, live eels but sloppy.  I pulled stretch 25’s Sunday, and was one of the only boats to boat fish even though no keepers. Longliners are picking up swords and tunny at the 200 fa line. Maybe something u can use in your report. oh and a buddy from pot nets has been fishing IRI in the mornings and catching nice fish on eels.  There is actually a 65 degree break off poormans now, probably holding longfin and yella’s… warm water is sticking around… also, some stripes have had sea lice, from a good source. BUT out of my fleet some guys have been running 6 to 8 miles offshore catching 30 to 38″ stripes and releasing … boat spotted BFT busting off isle of wright shoal after a netter.”  Thanks brother nice to hear there is still some good water out there.  Not to panic anyone but there have been bacteria alerts in many of the Jersey bays since hurricane Sandy.  These fish have been feasting on the shellfish that are full of the bacteria.  Releasing a striped bass right now, even in Delaware, might be a good idea.

record striped bass in delaware, striped bass record, Delware state striped bass record
Chris Arnone (L) and Ben Smith (R) … holding the pending Delaware state record striped bass just after landing the fish in Delaware Seashore State park (DSSP)

A fish picture was sent to us Saturday morning, I half looked at it, and just typed in ling cod, or spotted hake, and went back to the weather report, then bed.  Later I was corrected that this fish was a red hake, and was caught near Henlopen today.  I haven’t seen one of these yet, but they are very similar to the spotted hake or ling cod.  I will send the picture to Dewayne Fox and see what he says.  We always like to be positive on our identifications, so we do not mislead anyone.  My phone just rang, and it is the call I have been waiting for all day.  Ben Smith is now holding the pending record for striped bass in Delaware at 52 pounds.  I am looking forward to hearing his story.  This all started Saturday morning when I was on my way to surf fish with Steve Williams on 3R’s beach.  Saad Soliman was tagged by his buddy Mark Lovelace, and Saad tagged me in a post.  “Hey Rich King you need to see this!!”  I will not repeat my reaction in this article, but it was a tad colorful on a holy level.  I grabbed the picture, and posted it on DSF’s Facebook page.  With the information we received at that time … “New personal best 51″ striped bass from the surf.”  I posted the following from information sent to us … ” Ben Smith and Chris Arnone … 45 minutes ago live eels in DSSP,  yup right here in Delaware … 51 inch striped bass!! Nice Catch Boys!!!” We found out later it was bunker chunks, and a small one at that.  I fielded a hundred questions in 10 minutes on Facebook, and the phone was blowing up.  Unbeknownst to me Ben’s phone was blowing up while he is trying to surf fish … welcome to my world brother!  I finally shut the computer down, and headed to the beach.  I wanted to catch a fish as large as a small child too!

Black Sea bass, charter fishing in delaware
Chris Guest caught this pretty sea bass this weekend. To bad the season is closed that is a nice looking fish.

I ran into Vic Minio who saw the fish at Old Inlet, and he was blown away by the size.  “Dude it barely fit in the cooler!‘  This is all Steve and I had been talking about for an hour … “Man, sure would like to catch one of those”, and “It was not that far from us!”  When I finally left the beach, after watching Vic catch a skate, I saw some folks in the parking lot airing up.  I think they were the only ones who didn’t know this monster striped bass was caught.  Their reaction was rather colorful as well.  I knew I had to meet the angler who caught this fish, and headed out on a mission.  I finally got the call Saturday evening, I spoke earlier with Dave Bentley about this catch and asked him to have Ben contact DSF.   I drove over to Riverdale to meet Ben Smith and his friends … Ellis, Andy, Chris, Ryan, Eric, Zach, Ron, Steve, and Charlie (whom was not there, sorry Charlie).  These boys have been fishing together for many years, they fish here all of the time, but a few of them only once a year.  This weekend was their annual trip.  Everyone gets together, and surf fishes for an entire weekend.  They have been doing this for a while now, and have known or worked with each other for a long time.  Ben Smith, an avid angler, has been surf fishing now for 5 years, and was introduced to the beach by his friend Chris Arnone.  He has fished many places, techniques, and caught all kinds of fish all of his life.  These boys will get together and marathon surf fish, upwards of 36 straight hours, not letting even an injury slow them down.  I can relate to that, we did the same for 3 weeks catching sharks for DSU.  This year’s trip they will never forget, the fishing may have been slower than most, but they hit a possible state record striped bass.  Sounds like a horrible way to spend a weekend, NOT!  They did manage a few keepers this weekend.  I met the crew, and Ben told me his story …

striped bass record in delaware, Ben Smith, rockfish record delaware
Ben Smith weighing in his striped bass at Old inlet in Delaware Seashore State Park … 52 pounds

11 of us started out in the surf at 5 a.m. in Delaware Seashore State Park, and we had 14 rods set up, ready to catch some striped bass.  We had fresh bunker on all lines, and it was rather foggy in the surf.  The outer rod, or most northern, was a Shimano bait caster.  The reel started to scream, peeling off line like crazy.  I ran down the beach for the rod, though I was in the middle of my breakfast.  This was about 7 a.m. and I could tell when I grabbed the rod it was a decent sized fish.  I set the reel, she is still screaming off line,and there is nothing I can do to stop it.  While reeling in the fish, it would pull more line, then I could reel in some more.  This went on for about 10 minutes.  When it was closer to the surf, the fish started to track the waves.  We saw the “S” swirl and the tail … WOW!! … This is going to be a big fish, and was our first look at this catch.  Then it ran again, peeling off more line, and I had to keep reeling.  Once I got it into the surf, we realized this was a monster fish, and it ran again, peeling off more line, there was no fighting this run.  Chris had to move a rod or 2 and keep me from fouling the lines, or we could have lost the fish.  When I finally landed the fish we measured it at 51 inches.  Everyone was high-fiving each other and whooping it up!  I was very excited, and immediately went back to fishing, after we took a few pictures.  I continued surf fishing for another 3 hours, and we all said we should take this to get weighed in, but we figured it was around 45 pounds.  Little did I know we had a possible state record, and had I known, we would have gone to weigh it in immediately.  I took it to Old Inlet and when it was weighed in, they asked if I wanted to have it certified, and call it in …  Yes I did!  The staff at Old Inlet was very helpful assisting me apply for the state record, and I want to thank them.  Their fresh bunker is the bait we used this weekend.

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Ben Smith (far right) and his fishing buddies … Ellis, Andy, Chris, Ryan, Eric, Zach, Ron, Steve … Charlie had already left, sorry Charlie, next time. Chris has a DSF sticker for you.

 The game warden showed up and we did the paperwork.  I now realized we should have brought this fish immediately to be weighed in, but I wanted to keep fishing.  We came here for a weekend of marathon surf fishing.”  …. Ben my man, that is a great adventure for anyone in the surf, CONGRATULATIONS!  From all of us at DSF.  I gave Ben a new DSF hat for letting me bend his ear for this story, and a state pending record deserves that at least.  I and many of my friends envy this catch.   I appreciate the camaraderie your group shares, it is something to be proud of.  You and your crew are a great bunch of guys, and I look forward to sharing a patch of sand with you boys on your next trip.  Trading fishing stories is something we all love to do, I am full of them, and you boys had some great ones.  On their last trip here some of the fellahs spent 18 hours fishing the point, and hit 4 keepers in that insane wind last week.  They could barely hold with 10 ounces, blew a transmission, discovered a flat tire, and even hit the emergency room at 3 a.m. for a scratched cornea.  Serious die hard surf fishing, I was truly impressed with these guys.  I have met many “crews” fishing, and you boys are tops in my book any day.  Definitely looking forward to some marathon surf fishing next year.  It was a pleasure meeting all of you, I could have stayed all night trading stories.  I have to agree with you boys on one point, I wouldn’t let Ben play cards after that catch either, ya lucky dog!  Kudos boys, makes me proud to meet a group like yours.

 

Certificate for the pending striped bass record in Delaware
Certificate for the pending striped bass record in Delaware.

The posts on our Facebook page were piling up when I got home, there were a few people that had to start up the age old argument of catch and release.  I asked Ben what his thoughts were on catch and release of striped bass.  He said … “I am not a vegetarian” and I was cracking up, in fact we all were.  Ben has fished LBI in Jersey, and just last week hit several shorties, and a keeper.  He released the fish for another day, I released all of mine this year, many of us do, but sometimes we keep one for the dinner table.  Ben and the boys mainly practice catch and release.  These trips, they keep what they are allowed, to feed their friends and family.  “Nothing goes to waste, and he even saved the skins of the 52 pounder for DSF to get to someone that can make use of them.”  Dewayne Fox if your reading this, I have some skin for you, my man!  I have to hand it to these boys ,they are a great fishing crew, and they have the utmost respect for Delaware’s beaches and tidal waters.  Consuming a few keepers on a once a year trip is not a problem by any means.   Hanging with those guys last night reminded me of the Saturdays spent with the fly tie boys last winter … lots of fun stories, and it didn’t get too “deep.”  Anglers with a true respect for their craft, and our waters.  I wish I was still residing in Oak Orchard, because last night I am sure everyone would have been up all night telling lies.

Ben Smith, congratulations buddy, it was a pleasure meeting you and the crew!  thank you for the time, and we hope you like the hat!

Fish On!!

Rich King

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