NEWBURGH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- A record-setting catch in the Hudson River had tongues wagging at marinas and boat docks all over the Tri-State Area Wednesday evening.
As CBS 2's Lou Young reported, the catch did not just involve a big fish, but also a big story.
Eric Lester of Campbell Hall, Orange County, reeled in a 60-pound female striped bass measuring 53.4 inches long from the Hudson River at Newburgh on May 14, the state Department of Environmental Conservation said.
Lester was fishing alone on Newburgh Bay, just under the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge, when he reeled in the fish. State biologists estimated the striper was at least 20 years old.
When he caught the fish, Lester was out with equipment geared for much smaller game. He said the bass hit his 20-pound test line with a vengeance, but the line held for a 15-minute fight.
"I knew it was a big fish. I didn't know how big it is," Lester said. "My reel comes disconnected from my rod, so I have the reel in one hand, the rod in the other. I'm able to secure it back on and I continue to fight it, then the fish gets wrapped up in the prop of my boat."
The big fish was frozen, and on Wednesday was waiting to be immortalized at True Life Taxidermy in Middletown.
Meanwhile, the part of the story that is raising eyebrows was his explanation about how he got a fish twice the size of his largest net into the boat.
"With this hand on the rod, I was able to stick my hand down inside of the gill of the fish, and hoist it up over the bow of the boat," Lester said.
In other words, Lester said he pulled a 60-pound fish out of the water with his bare hands.
Lester said the fish had given up. But fellow anglers were divided about history.
"What else could he do?" said fisherman Peter Swanson, who said he believed Lester's story.
"There are such things as fish stories," said fisherman John Curtis, who said he was not sold on everything.
Lester said he does not think anyone would believe his story at all if the fish had gotten away.
So while there were no witnesses to the catch, Lester does have the fish. CBS 2 is told the monster bass should be ready for mounting on his wall before the end of the summer.
The former freshwater record was a 55 pound, 6 ounce fish caught in 2007. The saltwater record for striped bass in New York is a 76-pounder caught off Montauk in 1981.
A list of state fishing records can be found on the DEC website.
Striped bass are ocean fish that spawn in rivers like the Hudson.
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