May 042011

I ran into the organizers of the Philadelphia Striped Bass Derby on Twitter @phillybassderby the other day.  It seems our City of Brotherly Love is hosting a Striped Bass fishing throwdown of EPIC proportions.  The spirit of this derby is very impressive;  So many times you see fishing derby’s for marked fish or for full stringers of keepers.  This derby is fish friendly and centered around the idea of CPR (catch, photograph, release).  The Philly Striped Bass Derby also brings the love of fishing into the heart of the city and helps share the sport with an urban audience.

If you’d like to skip some reading and go sign up click here, otherwise without any further delay I present you with some great details from the organizers of the Philadelphia Striped Bass Derby!

Philadelphia Striped Bass Derby logoFirst Annual Philadelphia Striped Bass Derby Brings Together Anglers, Forgotten Rivers, and a Migratory Fish for One Month Contest Focusing on Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers

The Derby, which expects to draw between 100 and 200 participants, is a catch and release fishing tournament for shore anglers.  No boats here! Anglers will be walking the shorelines of Penn Treaty Park, Bartram’s Gardens, and Hog Island, looking for the best place to set up a rod and catch the big one.  Other anglers have “secret spots” hidden amongst the rivers’ piers, factories, and rail yards.  With gas prices at $4 a gallon, why drive all the way to the NJ shore or pump money into a boat when there is fantastic fishing right here on the banks of Philly’s rivers? It’s also better for the environment!  The Derby includes one month of fishing, two community fishing days and a clean-up day

Picture of people fishing for striped bass in phillyThe contest is awarding over $1,000 in cash and prizes for the longest striped bass caught. As the Derby is catch and release, participants must submit a photograph or video of their fish next to a special Derby supplied measuring tape.

The goal of the Derby is threefold. First, it will bring together diverse members of the angling community and introduce new people to urban fishing.  From PBR drinking hipsters, Center City power players, to grizzled fishing veterans and local families and children, the Derby will bring Philly’s diverse populace together. Second, the event is meant to draw attention to the role that clean urban waters have for supporting migratory fish. Striped Bass need clean rivers to reproduce.  The Delaware Rivershed is under threat from a variety of pollution sources, including the potential damage caused by the hydrofracking of the Marcellus Shale. Finally, the derby highlights the importance of catch and release and stewardship of the river and its fish.

Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis): Caught in Atl...

Image via Wikipedia

The Derby is being organized by a trio of friends: Len Albright, Jason Strohl, and Oliver Cooney.  They live in different neighborhoods, West Philly, South Philly, and Fishtown, but were drawn together by their mutual love for fishing.  Avid anglers of the NJ shore, they were surprised when they first learned about the migration of striped bass into the local rivers each Spring.  Albright states, “I was walking on the river trail behind the art museum and saw a guy catch a humungous striped bass, and was like wow, there are striped bass in the Schuylkill?”  Albright later learned that there is a special fish ladder in place at the Fairmount Waterworks, which allows migratory fish, including striped bass, herring, and shad, to make their way around the waterfall and upstream so they can spawn each Spring.   He started reading about the migration patterns of the striped bass, and meeting other local anglers.  Strohl adds, “The Delaware and Schuylkill host a variety of migratory fish each Spring. These rivers have a long history of fishing festivals focused on these fish.  The festivals stopped when the rivers were so polluted that the fish couldn’t  survive. But as the rivers are getting cleaner, and people are advocating for them more, the fish are returning and so are the festivals.” For example, Lambertville, NJ hosts an annual Shadfest, not to mention the Shadfest in Fishtown.

Illustration of a group of striped bass

Image via Wikipedia

The month-long contest format allows people time to explore the rivers, get to know other anglers, and to catch “Derby Fever”.  Derbies like ours occur in other places along the Atlantic coast as the stripers “pass by” on their migration route.  Rather than doing a one day fishing contest, the month long Derby allows us to appreciate this fish for the full time that they are living in our local waters! Although the fishing is typically better in April, the Derby is taking place in May to reduce the fishing pressure on the stripers before the spawn.

Delair Bridge, across the Delaware River from ...

Image via Wikipedia

The goal of the first annual Philadelphia Striped Bass Derby is to draw attention to these migratory fish that spend two months of the year in the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers.  Albright states, “Many people know that the rivers are here, but they don’t have a way to connect with it, to make it personal.  Fishing along the river with friends and family, and realizing the connection between the rivers and the Oceans, gives people a way to make and hold this personal connection.  The more people feel personally connected to the rivers, the more they want to take care of them and protect them. That’s our real goal. We want to encourage people to make personal connections to our local rivers and to use those connections to become advocates and stewards of the rivers.

Derby Details

There is a $25 to register which includes:

  • Entry in the Philadelphia Striped Bass Fishing Derby
  • Philly Striped Bass Derby T-shirt
  • Official Philly Striped Bass Derby measuring tape for measuring your catch
  • Button
  • 20% of each entry fee to the Philly Striped Bass Derby is being donated to the Delaware Riverkeeper organization

Wow!  with perks like that registering for this contest is a prize in itself!

If you are interested in entering the fishing derby head on over to and sign up TODAY.  The Philly Striped Bass Derby site contains all of the contest info, registration details, leaderboard, and more!


Have you signed up for the Derby yet?  Let us know in the comments below.  Also if you have pictures of your Striped Bass from the Derby let us know and we’ll give you a post (and props) on the site!


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