Sunday, May 13, 2007

First Keeper

Friday, May 11

The alarm went off at 4:45 and I jumped right out of bed to get out to the fish. By 5:00 I was moving rapidly out toward the Bug Light which was shrouded in dense fog; only its tip showing. The fog was interesting. There were two layers: from the sea surface to about 30’, then a gap and a layer a couple hundred feet up. Only the midsection of the Cordage stack was visible and that was weird.

I zigged around a bit and cut the engine at my regular recon position to listen. A few large bait fish (or squid?) surfaced near the boat and I took a couple casts, but nothing. The fog was moving around me and I decided to inch toward shore a bit to keep the coast in my view. A few more casts where I thought I saw some swirls, but nothing. Then back out, then back in, then…I heard the terns through the fog, lots of crazy birds, and splashes. I followed my ears to the source of this noise until I was right up on about an acre of action.

The fish were difficult to hook at first. They were finicky and choosy. Slurping and rolling. And this is not always a good sign. When they do this they are either sipping on very small bait, such as polychaetes (worms), or amphipods, or they are just being lazy and playful. In either case, it is hard to hook a fish under these conditions and it is frustrating because you’ll see them all around the boat, smiling and gloating. Would the net be sportsmanlike?

But they eventually began to bite and within ten minutes their aggressiveness had increased to a pleasurable level. For a little while most of the fish I hooked were in the mid-20s in length and there were a few small guys in the mix. I experimented with several lures (the flyrod, left sitting in the garage, would have been best on this morning) and ultimately found the silver/white storm shad to work best. On one retrieve, the shad was quite visible and nearing the hull, when a large striper suddenly appeared, sucked the shad in, and turned on its run. “Wow!” or something similar came forth from my mouth while the line screamed down and out from the boat. The fight lasted a few minutes until I could see him – definitely a keeper. Oh yeah, no net – it was left next to the flyrod. Hmmn. Well, for a second or two I was envisioning filets on the grill on Saturday night – then realizing I had forgotten the net, I convinced myself not to think that way until he was in the boat. I tired him for a while, leaned down, drew my fingers around the line to guide the fish closer (and this is where most unlucky experiences occur) and tailed him (grabbed his tail) to get him in. He got in and I was happy about that. I was certain he was a keeper, but the tape….oh yeah, left that on my tool bench in the garage with fellow flyrod and net….no tape so I used best professional judgment.

I stayed another half hour and landed my last seven or eight on a surface plug – kind of a modified jumping minnow (white). This was cool because the bass went after this thing like they were pissed off that it existed. Often, the fish would simply hit the thing and send it flying with no clear intention of actually biting it. That sound is what its all about, kind of a pop and slurp mixed together: a “purp”. “Hey Bob, did you hear that fish purp?” Yeah man, wicked purpage.

I headed in around 6:45 to get the kids ready for school. They, of course, found it amusing to touch its eyes as I prepared to filet it. I measured him first – 31”. Anyway, the gut analysis was somewhat dissatisfying. It revealed mostly empty but a few small polychaetes. This guy was hungry.

So, two good filets for the grill and a rack for the lobster pots which will get more attention in about a month.

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