The Block Island Times

A first-hand account of bringing in a monster bass

By Matt King and Don Smith | Jun 26, 2011
Don Smith, the monster bass, and Peter Vican, who caught it.

A new state record for striped bass was set here in the wee hours of Sunday, June 19. Peter Vican of East Greenwich, a frequent visitor who already held the state record for a 76-pound, 14-ounce striped bass caught during the 2008 Block Island Volunteer Fire Department fishing tournament, caught a second monster: a 77.4-pounder. His fishing companion Don Smith, who helped boat the enormous bass, gives this account:

“Saturday night, on the way to Block Island, we checked in with Captain Matt King of Hula Charters by telephone. Matt knows the water around the island very well. The spot where Peter Vican’s first record catch was made, as well as the newest record catch, are both locations that Matt has shared with us over the past few years. He informed us where the fish had been hitting earlier in the day, which gave us the locations to start looking for them.

“We fished an area on the southwest side of the island from 9:30 p.m. until after 1 a.m. Sunday morning. We landed more than a dozen fish apiece over 25 pounds, often doubling up on each drift. Right around midnight, we doubled up on several large fish. I landed a 48-pound fish and Peter’s was just slightly smaller. On the very next drift we duplicated the catch, with both of landing fish around 45 pounds. Since I had kept the 48-pound bass, all the others were released.

“We were fishing our usual method of light-tackle drift-fishing with 6/0 octopus circle hooks and live eels. The current was pretty strong, so we were using 3-ounce egg sinkers to keep the eels in the zone near the bottom.

“Shortly after 1 a.m., the drift died and dogfish starting chopping up our eels. After catching more than a dozen dogfish we moved out of the area and spent quite a while looking around various spots for the bass without a lot of success.

“There were dogfish everywhere. Once the tide started running again, we worked our way back to the spot that had been producing large fish earlier in the night.

“The drift speed was absolutely perfect — between 1.5 and 2 mph. The lack of wind let us drift with the current, so the eels were facing in the right direction.

“It was right around 3:30 a.m. when the fish hit. It took some line out, but nowhere near the amount you would expect from a fish of that size. It never really made any big runs like Peter’s first record fish, and actually swam with the boat and kept diving to the bottom. After 10 minutes or so, it surfaced behind the boat and Peter reeled it alongside.

“I couldn’t tell if it was a big fish at this point, and asked Peter if he wanted me to net the fish or just use the BogaGrip on it. He said that I’d better grab the net because this fish was heavy.

“I got the net ready and moved over to his side of the boat just as Peter got the fish to the back corner of the hull. When the fish saw the boat it rolled on its side and swam directly out to the side, away from the boat. That was when I got a good look at it. I yelled to Peter that it was a monster.

“I don’t think the fish got more than 25 or 30 feet from the boat before Peter had it turned and it swam right back at us. By then I was really excited. I had the net in the water and the fish headed right into it.

“When Peter caught the first record fish, it took both of us to lift the net. This time I was so hyped up after seeing the fish that I just bent over and grabbed the frame of the net and lifted it right out of the water and flipped it onto the deck of the boat. As the fish lay next to my 48-pounder, it looked like it could have swallowed the smaller fish.

“The fish measured 52″ long with a 35″ girth and weighed almost 77 pounds. But it was 35″ from its head right to its rear fins, so it looked like a brick with a tail — not at all like the crescent striper shape.

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