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Hudson River Striped Bass Derby can net $100,000 for angler with a big haul
Talk about a big catch.
About 200 anglers – possibly more – will be competing this weekend in the Hudson River Striped Bass Derby in hopes of a $100,000 payoff. Those who compete for the grand prize will need to haul in a winner that weighs at least 50 pounds and measures more than 48 inches.
There’s also a regular contest with a top pot of $1,000 for the heaviest fish of the weekend, with more checks handed out, down to $25 for the seventh-highest weigh-in.
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“The river is beautiful. It’s flat as a pancake,” said Gil Hawkins, vice president for event sponsor Hudson River Fishermen’s Association. “We’re in good shape for the weekend.”
The nearly-annual derby has been held in various Hudson Valley communities, and this year for the first time will be based in Newburgh. A main weigh station will be set up at the riverfront restaurant Billy Joe’s Ribworks, with two satellite locations at the Croton Yacht Club and at the Atlantis Marina in Staten Island.
But, shhh, can we tell you a secret about the fish that got away? In the dozen or so years of the derby’s existence, no one has ever won the $100,000 grand prize.
Still, anglers find a satisfying rush in tangling with the star of the recreational fishing industry, the striped bass.
“It all revolves around the king of the American estuary,” Hawkins said. “The striped bass is probably one of the most recreational fishes in the world. It’s a predatory fish, a game fish, which means that it fights. You have to outsmart it.”
Striped bass spend most of their time in the ocean but migrate every spring to spawn in the lower Hudson River, which is an estuary – a section that flows into the sea’s tides.
As this migratory fish travels up and down along the seaway from Montauk, Long Island, to the coast of Virginia, it keeps cash registers ringing in a multibillion dollar industry that features bait shops, tackle shops and charter boats, according to the fishermen’s association.
As always, the association is encouraging a catch-and-release of the haul. The anglers who let their fish live can add an additional pound to the recorded weight of their catches.
Derby fees, which range up to $40 per person, help fund the association’s scholarship and Youth Angler Program, which on Sunday afternoon will host about a dozen Newburgh kids in a free clinic at the deck of Billy Joe’s restaurant. The kids will learn the joys of using a rod and reel and baiting a hook – as well as their larger role in the nature.
“We get kids out on the river and get them to understand the environmental and business aspects and all the aspects of the sustainable rivers,” Hawkins said. “That's one of our main messages.”
The $100,000 contest starts at midnight Friday, with the regular contest kicking off at 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Anglers can fish on the shoreline or a boat and take up spots anywhere from the northern reaches at Troy Dam all the way down to the Raritan Bay in New Jersey.
For more information, official rules and regulations, visit www.stripedbassderby.com