Some anglers luck into setting records, and then there is the extremely small group of anglers who are obsessed with catching a world-record fish. Alex Foster apparently falls into this last category.
Foster’s dedication may have paid off on January 7th, while fishing off Cape Charles with Captain Clinton Lessard of Sho-Nuf Sportfishing. They were trolling a live eel when Foster caught a 48.03-inch-long striper, which measured 58 pounds on an uncertified hand scale. The four-foot fish is now pending International Game Fish Association (IGFA) world record certification for length in the IGFA’s release category. The world record by weight for rockfish is 81 pounds, 14 ounces caught by Gregory Myers in August 2011 in Long Island Sound.
As he waits for word on the possible world record, Foster has also earned a release citation from the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament.
Foster has been making the long trip from Charleston, West Virginia to Virginia’s Eastern Shore for several years hoping to get a shot at the world record. And even though Virginia’s rockfish season ended December 31, Foster still made the 400-mile trek with the sole purpose of catching a world-record rockfish, knowing he would have to let it go. According to an IGFA Facebook post, Foster fought the fish for 15 minutes before measuring and releasing it.
Grave concerns about the declining striper stock prompted Virginia to eliminate its Spring Trophy season and significantly curtail its fall fishery by capping sizes in 2019. Other coastal states have also taken steps to lower their harvest. Still, many anglers in the Bay are enjoying good catch-and-release fishing. These large breeders are key to increasing the fish population.
For anglers seeking trophy fish like Alex Foster, finding the right captain for the job and dealing with wicked, wintery weather are just two of the challenges:
“He booked me for five trips this winter, and the fourth trip was the charm,” Captain Lessard said.
But getting your catch-and-release fish certified as an IGFA release world record is another matter altogether. In addition to the paperwork and $100 processing fee, the fish’s length has to be photographed on an official, $50, IGFA measuring board. The angler must provide photos of the rod, reel and net as well as provide IGFA a piece of the fishing line and the hook used to land the fish, which must be released alive. Additionally, witnesses must corroborate the event, everything has to be signed and notarized, and all other IGFA rules must be followed. A list of eligible species in the release category is on IGFA’s website. The approval process time varies from several weeks to several months.
Captain Lessard and other skippers also mentioned there are still large rockfish moving into the lower Bay for those who want to catch-and-release monster stripers.
Chris Snook, owner of Chris’ Bait and Tackle just a few miles from the Kiptopeake boat ramp area where the pending record rockfish was landed, hopes Foster’s four-footer inspires more catch-and-release action.
“It’s great to see, and hopefully more anglers will want to take part in this great winter fishery,” says Snook.
-Captain Chris D. Dollar