Monday, July 23, 2007

Playing Tag

Monday, July 23, 2007

The first thing I heard at 4:15 this morning was the wind. Soothing, yes, but once I reached a 51% level of consciousness the sudden shock hit me hard. I had been gambling on the weather over the weekend in attempts to schedule a trip with Scot L. He was out on Saquish Head for several days with family members and we finally put the trip off until today. The forecast was a mixed bag of NE breezes, some 50% chance of rain, and probably worsening throughout the day. Saturday and Sunday were perfect weather wise. But other priorities prevailed and we were eventually stuck with today, Monday.

I met Scot and his father, Rich, down at the town dock at 6. On the way I stopped to for 5 minutes at one of my usual locations. I found birds going berserk and lots of stripers. I quickly sampled the school for size, etc., and landed two in the mid/upper 20s (inches). Hmmn, good sign. I was worried that the ENE wind would be putting them down. So far, no rain.

I told Scot and Rich about the fish I had found and we all agreed it would be a good idea to return to where we knew the fish were. We acquainted ourselves along the way and upon arriving we did indeed find the fish, still up on the surface and not another boat seemed to be fishing the bay. Perfect.

Rich took a rod that had a double-hooked white 9” Sluggo that my friend Joel Meunier rigged for me a couple weeks ago. This Sluggo had already hooked about 10 fish, including a 36” striper last week. Before casting, both Rich and Scot marveled at the rubber bait and firmly decided that these were to be their lure of choice. I needed to rig another one for Scot, so he started off with a Yo-Zuri popper (also, a keeper veteran, but in much better shape).

Rich’s first cast into the school of busting fish: KABLAM! (obligatory caps and exclamation point….I’ll ease off on these from here on). Line peeled from the reel, we all watched in anticipation, and yes, a fish that measured 28 inches. Nice one. But upon further inspection we noticed a USFW tag in its belly. I had never come across one of these, nor had the guys. I took my pliers and gave the bubblegum-colored plastic tubing a pull but only managed to break it off at the scales. We set it aside for later.

Soon both Scot and Rich were landing fish, and this continued for some time. I was happy about having a keeper on board on the first cast of the day. For a while there were big follows, mid-sized landings, and then Rich hooked into a larger striper that, again, peeled away. This one was about 32 inches and the happiness continued.

Then we moved to another area not too far away. I told the tales of how I’d hooked many large bass in this spot and if they were in then they’d be appreciable in size. Within one minute of the first drift we had a major double hookup (see photo). Scot’s fish I saw. It was a biggie and took lots of line off his reel. But Rich seemed to be huffing and puffing too, and his reached the boat first. A quick dip of the net and it was in. However, this story has a sad ending: while unhooking Rich’s fish the same happened to Scot’s and his fish unhooked at the boat. I didn’t get to see it up close (Scot did, of course) and we all sulked a bit when this happened. I, like a dolt, left my tape at home (next to my broken GPS) so we couldn’t get an exact measurement of Rich’s new friend, but I estimated about 36”. He was fat too. We all agreed that Scot’s was larger, but we’ll never know.

The action continued for some time. Scot kept pulling in 27 inchers while Rich, taking full advantage of his lucky (and skillful) streak, pulled in one more keeper back along the original rips we fished. We sampled three or four more spots. The weather was tough to take and we decided that the 50% chance of rain the NOAA site predicted really meant that 50% of the time we were getting soaked. The small NE squalls hit with a consistent period, about every 15 minutes we would get some wind and a good soaking, then 15 minutes of mild air and brighter skies (but no sun).

While the guys fished I decided to poke around into the tagged fish and finally found the tag. “Reward” was the first word I recognized. It had an 800 number to call and a “fish number.” I dialed up the USFW and a woman promptly answered. I answered questions, then she asked to speak to Rich. He answered questions too…more personal questions. He responded to the announcement of the reward with glee and I immediately imagined some cash coming his way. But alas, no cash, but rather a USFW baseball cap. It was either that or a lapel pin, and I commend Rich for choosing the former. Hmmmn. Well, they’d also be sending some info on the fish as well.

We finally quit and I got both wet men back to the dock in time for lunch. Their tally came out to approximately (judging from the condition of my left thumb) 15 to 20 fat stripers each, including four nice keepers. We parted with smiles.

But the day wasn’t over for me. I checked my lobster pots (nada) then decided to fish for a little while myself. The fog thickened appreciably and I had to rely on my internal magnetic sensing system, which actually worked quite well today. I returned to Keeper Hole. First cast and (sorry), KABLAM!! I massive striper was now on my new Joel Meunier cherry popper (newly fitted with a larger VMC hook). But something was wrong. This hookup seemed totally odd. And yes, it was. The fish was not foul hooked but had hit with such vigor that it managed to wedge the thing sideways and upside-down in its mouth. When I got it close up to the boat (with net in hand), I was rendered aghast by the sight of the hook which was hanging freely out of the fish’s mouth. The horrified creature had the plug, as mentioned earlier, wedged in the most unnatural position. Ooh, I thought. Then I slid the net into place, but of course…yes, of course, removing the tension from the fish’s mouth for even the microsecond that I allowed it to do resulted in the gentle release of the dowel dam and the fish, ever so nonchalantly, swam over the net and out of reach into the dark water.

Good for him!

I called it quits for the day and somehow found home.

No comments: