I knew that title would get your attention Joe. lol
Daily News of Newburyport
NEWBURYPORT - Which is the bigger fish: a 51-inch striped bass that weighs 46 pounds or a 493/4-inch striper that weighs 501/2 pounds?
In this area, it depends on whom you ask.
Ryan Voltero caught a 51-inch striper late last week, fishing underneath the Route 1 bridge on the Merrimack River using fresh herring as bait at 11 p.m.
The 26-year-old Salisbury man started fishing the spot when he was 15 years old.
"We've gone out there loyally for 11 years, and the biggest until then was about 36 inches," Voltero said.
There's no doubt Voltero's is a big striped bass - in fact, local fishing experts say it's rare these days for such a large fish to be caught that far upstream. But another monster striper also was caught in the river last week.
Russel Burgess, whose hometown was not available, caught the 50-pounder during a tournament hosted by the Elm Street Bait and Tackle shop in Salisbury. So far it's the biggest fish caught in the tournament, but that competition continues until the last day of this month. Jessy Bouchard, a worker at the tackle shop, said Burgess caught the fish trolling the Newburyport side of the river.
In Elm Street's competition, Burgess' fish would beat out Voltero's.
"The weight is what we go by," Bouchard said. "And then if it is the same weight, we use length."
Burgess isn't listed locally and could not be reached for comment. Voltero is not participating in the Elm Street shop's tournament.
However, over at Tim's Bait and Tackle on Beach Road in Salisbury, there is a different opinion.
Owner Roland Anderson said a tournament he's going to next week uses length as the indication of the biggest fish, a standard he also utilizes when comparing catches.
"We use the size, the length," he said.
At Bridge Road Bait and Tackle, owner Rene Vigneault said each of the two fish are impressive but not the only ones that big from the Merrimack.
"It's not unheard of," he said of the size. "There used to be a lot of fish like that. In the recent years, there hasn't been a whole bunch of them. But those sound nice."
And what about which is the better fish?
"Pounds," Vigneault said. "Sometimes someone could catch a 40-inch fish that weighs 17 pounds. They call those racers. Usually a person is real happy when they catch a 35-inch fish that weighs 25 pounds. That's a beautiful fish."
Kay Moulton, owner of Surfland Bait and Tackle, said one thing that is impressive about Voltero's fish is where it was caught, so far upriver.
"That is big for up there," she said. "It is not uncommon, but it is not an everyday thing. Most of the bigger fish have been taken up in the flats or down in the mouth at the toothpick."
As far as comparing the two fish, Moulton said she always leans toward the side of weight rather than length and is more impressed by Burgess' fish.
"He must've had some girth to him," she said.
The national record for a striped bass is a 72-inch, 781/2 pound fish caught in New Jersey, according to the Mass Division of Wildlife and Fisheries. The top Bay State striper is 73 pounds, which has happened three times in Massachusetts, with the most recent reported in 1981. No lengths were given for the 73-pound stripers caught in the commonwealth. Stripers must be at least 28 inches long to be kept.
It took Voltero 25 minutes to reel in his striper, he said.
"He jumped out of the water. It was unbelievable," Voltero said.
As soon as he and his friend left the river, Voltero said he put the fish on ice to keep it fresh. His next step was to parade it to local bait shops and then to the taxidermists. He is paying $650 to get it mounted.
"It's once in a lifetime thing," Voltero said. "You have to get it stuffed, no matter how much it costs. It's the biggest striper the taxidermist has ever seen."
What is clear throughout this debate is that the big fish are good news for fishermen.
Anderson, who owns Tim's, said one of his customers said his son caught a 54-inch striper this year and he's heard of others in the river who measured into the high 40-inch range.
"There are some monsters out there," Voltero said.
But Voltero also says he does not hold out much hope of repeating his feat.
"It's a once in a lifetime thing," he said. "I don't think I'll ever get that lucky again."