Connecticut has the best striper fishing in the world. That's right: Connecticut.
I had no idea my home state is a hotbed for big fish until I had the chance to chat with North Branford, Connecticut's Greg Myerson, who's been called the Warren Buffett of the fishing world. Yes, that's Greg in the photo... hoisting the largest striped bass ever caught. Actually, Myerson claims he's hauled even bigger fish out of the waters of Long Island Sound.
What's his trick? Where are the best places to fish in Connecticut, both for saltwater and freshwater species? And how can you see the mount of the monster fish that made Myerson a fishing superstar and put Connecticut on the map as a world-class fishing destination?
Whether you're a serious striper chaser or a parent who likes to take your kids trout fishing now and again, you'll be fascinated by the secrets and stories Myerson shares in this Q&A:
Q: When I first saw the photo of your world record-setting striped bass, I immediately wanted to know: Where on Earth did he catch that monster fish? I assumed it was somewhere exotic and was floored to learn you were fishing in Long Island Sound. Was this 54-inch, 81.88-pound striper an anomaly, or are big fish plentiful off Connecticut's shore?
A: I've fished all over the place, and the biggest bass I ever catch are here in Connecticut. I have caught four world-record striped bass in Connecticut in the last two years.
A lot of the striped bass come here to feed on our lobster. They like to use the Sound. There's a lot of food in there, and they come here in the summertime.
Q: So, what's your secret for attracting these enormous fish?
A: I've invented techniques to catch these things. I've actually listened to lobsters in tanks, and I record the sounds that they make with their claws on the bottom.
I get the decibel level and frequency down and then build rattles that mimic that same sound and put them inside my sinkers. So, that's one of my main products that I use: the RattleSinker, which I designed and patented.
I invented these devices, and I used them for myself for years and never told anybody about them. And then in 2010, Jack, who owns Jack's Shoreline Bait & Tackle in Westbrook, convinced me to enter the Striper Cup, which is one of the biggest striped bass tournaments in the world. Probably 5,000 people enter every year. I entered it late in the season, too. It starts in April, and I didn't get in until May or June. As soon as I got in, I took the lead and won it in 2010. I won Angler of the Year. I caught three 60-plus-pound striped bass in Connecticut. I got a call from a book writer, and he told me no one's ever caught three 60-pounders. He said: "There have only been about 100 ever caught, and you caught three in one year. You're going to be more famous than Al McReynolds." I didn't even know who Al McReynolds was! It turns out he was the current world record holder at the time, up until I broke the record the next year in 2011.
Q: I read your account of catching the world-record striped bass. Do you have any other extraordinary fish stories from your experiences fishing in Connecticut?
A: I've caught bigger fish than the world record and released them a few times, not knowing what the world record even was. I wasn't involved in any tournaments where I had to keep the fish. In 1998, I caught a humongous fish and released it. And then again in 2007, I caught another gigantic one, and I released that. I don't even know how big they were: I let them go. If it wasn't for that tournament in 2011, I would have probably released that fish as well and never gotten the world record.
Q: Why isn't Connecticut on more anglers' radar as a fishing destination? Why should it be?
A: I love Connecticut. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else. I actually work for the Department of Transportation for the State of Connecticut. I love it here. I fish here. I could go fish anywhere: I stay here. We have two of the best trout streams in the world here with the Housatonic and the Farmington River for fly fishermen.
And up in that part of the state, Barkhamsted and Cornwall, it's just gorgeous. We have all kinds of trout management areas and fishing areas here. And then the ocean fishing... the whole coast is beautiful. You can get to Long Island, get to Montauk, get to Block Island, but I've fished all those areas and never do any better there than I do in Connecticut. The state spent so many millions of dollars last year on tourism with Revolutionary War-themed stuff, but they're missing the boat! The real attraction is the fishing we have here.
Q: I read that you started fishing at two years old?
A: Yeah, my mother said I used to fish in the sewer for some reason. She said I just wanted to fish. It didn't matter if I caught anything. No one in the family was really a big fisherman. They were all from Brooklyn, and actually my grandfather worked at the Fulton Fish Market. They all came from down that way, but they moved to Connecticut and settled up here. I was a country boy right off the bat.
Q: Do you have a favorite inland fishing spot in Connecticut?
A: I fish all over the place. Anytime. For anything. I ice fish. I was just on Silver Lake last week with my daughter on the ice, and we caught a bunch of fish. My daughter will be 7, and she loves to fish. She actually won her first fishing tournament last year. I trout fish the Salmon River in Colchester. I trout fish the Muddy River in North Haven. I trout fish the Housatonic and Farmington. Even the Quinnipiac River and the Connecticut River, you can catch striped bass in all year round now. Anywhere you go in the state, there's great fishing. In 2011, I think 11 new records were broken in the state and one world record, which is mine.
Q: How did fishing become more than a hobby for you?
A: People wanted to know how I was doing it. If you're catching all these huge fish and no one else is, they want to know what the secret trick is. And I figured, I am using something that I invented. I record sounds from crayfish and lobsters and crabs: If you're making lures that are replicating crayfish or crab or lobsters, you want the sound of that particular creature inside it. So, I build rattles that make those sounds. It was a hobby, but now the demand for bringing science into fishing is going to a whole new level, and I guess I'm at the forefront of it. UConn Law School students researched the product I invented called the RattleSinker and patented it for me.
I'm actually opening up the World Record Striper Company, which is going to be similar to a Black Dog or Vineyard Vines type of store right next to Bill's Seafood in Westbrook. It'll be right on the water next to Pier 76 and hopefully become a tourist destination in itself because we'll have the world record fish mounts on the walls in there and a whole brand of clothes with our logo.
We should be opening this spring (2014). It's not a huge storefront, but I'm doing a lot of manufacturing and distribution out of there. We're maximizing the space for our line of World Record Striper Company clothing. It's not going to be a huge place, but I figure we might as well have our logo on all kinds of different stuff.
Q: What other opportunities have come your way since you broke the striped bass world record?
A: I just got a big book deal with an author, Tim Gallagher: He's a professor at Cornell. He's already written a couple of bestsellers. He thinks this is going to be his greatest one ever. He loves it. So, I'm happy and excited about it.
And I've been filming with a famous producer named Jamie Howard. Do you know how Warren Miller films all those skiing documentaries? Jamie Howard does fishing ones. He did one called Chasing Silver, which was a huge hit. And the next one, we're doing together. It's called: Running the Coast, and it's filmed in Connecticut and Rhode Island and New York and all around that area.
Striped bass fishing is a huge market. There are over 5 million striper fishermen on the East Coast alone. I'm starting to get a lot of big name people calling, and I take them out fishing. My fishing buddy is Walter Anderson, who is the CEO of Parade Magazine. He's a good friend of mine. He's a captain. So, when these big people come to town, he acts as the captain, I act as the guide, and we take them on these excursions.
Q: For travelers visiting Connecticut to fish, can you recommend a few of your favorite resources? A favorite bait source or tackle shop?
A: Rick Mola owns Fisherman's World in Norwalk. That is probably the greatest tackle shop in the state. Jack's is a great place: I hang out at Jack's Bait and Tackle pretty much all the time. Another good one is Captain Morgan's in Madison.
Q: Do you have a favorite place to dine after a day of fishing?
A: I go to Bill's Seafood, right next to where my company is going to be. I'm a regular at Bill's Seafood. The food is great.
Q: Is there a key piece of advice you share with fishermen who dream of capturing a world record?
A: Pay close attention to the technique I came up with. All fish hunt from sound and vibration more than sight. They hunt from sound and vibration first, and then smell second and then their eyesight only for the final attack because they're all nearsighted. They can't see anything, really, except for close-up. So, I appeal to the way they hunt. That's how I attract the biggest fish.
You have to know when the best times are to catch them. They don't like to move around in fast current. There are certain windows with moon phases when the tides are slower, and the lobster feed more, and big bass listen for that. It's a whole system that I've come up with. Right now, I'm looking at the first quarter moon rising. It will be dead high in the sky at sunset. If you could find a slack high tide at sunset with a first quarter moon, it's going to make the tide a slower one, the fish are going to feed longer, they're going to use the moon as a backdrop, it's going to create a frenzy, and fish are easier to fool if they're in frenzies. I overthink everything. That's probably why I don't sleep much at night.
Q: How do you hope to change fishing in the future?
A: I'm heading to Atlantic City to talk to the Recreational Fishing Alliance and actually work on some legislation. I may be going to Congress to lobby for a change in fishing laws. For me, fishing has become more about trying to invent things that outsmart fish than just going out fishing. When I was a kid, I used to tie flies and catch trout and loved it. It was all about catching stuff on things that I made. Now, it's compounded into this, where I'd like to see everybody catch fish with something I built. It's not just about making money. It's about changing the way people fish and making it better. And then, using my notoriety to protect the fish that I'm trying to catch so that we can always have them and catch them.