Sunday, November 18, 2012

Things Fall Apart By: Steve Evans

      Unpacking from a miserable cold and thoroughly fruitless venture into some backwaters behind wildwood new jersey,  sucking down beers in alexy's kitchen too early to be home from a night fishing trip which was concieved with such promise; and crackling with the acrid pessimism; the frustration, bone chill, and exhaustion that have the comfortable familiarity of an old pair of slippers we wear on bitter nights when the waters seem empty, I distractedly mulled over a copy of Jon Shien's book Kayak Fishing generously given to me by chris, the exhuberant owner of The Kayak Fishing store. Filled with color photos, mostly of the author and friends holding out-sized fish in exotic locations, stories of triumphant days on the water and drizzled with information, tactics and tips promising to lavish the would-be kayak angler with bountiful days on the water. Are you detecting a sardonic bite to my tone? Well the book is fine really, but you can probably guess how I felt paging through this stuff after this failure of a trip which emphasised all of the negative aspects of fishing from a little plastic boat. The age old joke about fisherman being accomplished liars came to mind, this joke like most jokes carrys with it a grain of truth: while it's unfair to say that most fisherman are outright liars it is fair to say that when dealing with fish stories you are most likely only getting half the story at best, and it's the good half that you get not the bad. Famed inventor of the nautilus weight training machines Arthur Jones said that success only serves in re-enforcing our superstitions. I would phrase it this way: Failure and pain are the least desirable but most essential ingredients of  human growth and learning.
       Twice last winter I spilled my kayak in the delaware river and swamped a canoe in the fall, I lost hundreds of dollers worth of equipment and nearly contracted hypothermia. I dropped my favorite rod and reel into barnagat bay. I lost at least four flounder last summer two of which were very large after I already had them in the boat because I couldn't get them on my stringer and they escaped.  I have fished in darkness, foul weather, cold wind, rain and snow and caught nothing more times than I can remember. The spare rods I keep in the rod holders in my boat are constantly getting hung up on brush, trees, rocks, boat docks, bridge pilings and anything else you can imagine. A boat caught my line while I was fishing from the north jetty this past summer and since I did not have a knife the boat spooled my reel and the drag system was completely burned out and had to be replaced. During a fishing tournament on the chesapeake I lost my wallet which had seven hundred dollars in it and I had to work for a friend in richmond virginia so I'd have enough money to get home. I am constantly replacing sunglasses and headlamps. I have ruined more cell phones while on the water than I can remember. I have fished in the surf and caught nothing more times than I can remember. My car is perpetually filled with sand and smells like bait and mildew. I seized my 5 horsepower canoe motor the first time I used it. A few years ago I drove my old man to the hospital with a treble hook in his thumb. I once had to pry open a bluefish's jaws with plyers to remove them from alexy's thumb.
      I could really go on and on. Foul weather alone is a subject which could easily fill a blog post. Or the futility of  battling wind and waves and current in a tiny plastic boat. which leads to subjects like hunger, exhaustion, exposure, dehydration. How about simply wrestling an eel onto a hook or tying a knot in the dark? I think It is Important to emphasize these things when you see pictures of anglers in panama hats and swim trunks holding fish under sunny blue skies. I remind myself of these things because each experience is a lesson and a milestone and the challenge and futility of reconciling with the many forces of the natural world and the many farces of humanity is something that you can't get from golf.      

Friday, November 16, 2012

Muppet Movie Man

     Fishing is always hit or miss, but even more risky is trying to find new spots.  We set out with what I thought was a pretty good plan - fish a back bay area of N. Wildwood. It was a quick ride, and we found an open bait shop easily.  It was a small shop, with the first Muppet movie playing on  T.V, that sat on the counter.  We asked if he had eels, and before saying yes, he said that there were no fish, "even caught nothing on grass shrimp at my best spots yesterday."
Now I've been told that there were no fish before, and I've gone out and had a great day and caught lots of fish.  So...(Plus, what were we going to do, turn around and go home?)
"Well how much are the eels?" A dollar?  That's less than half what we'd normally pay, so our plan morphed. We got ten eels.
the crabs are in the bag!
     Onward to the Kayak Fishing store where Chris the proprietor was kind and forthright with lots of information.  Unlike the Muppet Movie Man, in fact quite diametrically opposed in his outlook, he went as far as to say there would be plenty of fish to catch, and suggested we try for Tog as well. None of us have ever Tog fished, but we were so excited by Chris' description we got a couple of hooks, 4 oz bank sinkers and a bag live green crabs.  Now we were completely pumped up.  We had eels, crabs, and boxes of lures.
The launch was pretty muddy at low tide. (Understatement)  We dragged our kayaks through the grass and the mud and togged under the bridge for a while.  After I lost one rig I gave up.  The current was pretty strong, and I wanted to explore the area a little more.  KGB and Steve stuck around the bridge a bit longer than me, but no-one had even a tap on the green crabs.  I tried to tube-n-(gulp)worm for the next hour or so.
    The current in front of the houses was ripping, and after the sun went down, we all met at a corner of the sedges where Steve and I switched to eel fishing. This is also where I probably dropped a headlamp that I had just bought.  I was effectively cold and blind when the sun had fully set.  despite this, we fished around the bridge with eels for about two more hours.  Nothing was happening at all. KGB trolled a black bomber, nothing.  His butt got wet, my butt was wet, and we were thoroughly discouraged.
 I'd like to say that some good came of this trip. A new kayak fishing spot can be a great thing when circumstances call for it.  The only explanation that makes any sense is from something The Muppet Movie Man said.  He said that the water temperature had dropped very quickly in the bay, and it turned the bite off.  So maybe under better, or even normal conditions it would be worth returning to N. Wildood, maybe....

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

When in Rome use a black bomber

Steve and I were planning on getting together yesterday to devise a plan for wednesday.  Instead we went fishing.
     We tried the surf at LBI, but ran into a few problems.  At first the wind seemed unbearable.  Once we found a spot with a little structure the wind had died down.  We surf fished for 2 hours, then decided to quit.  On a whim we wanted to see if we had access to the area around the lighthouse (Barnegat).  We did.  There were a few trucks parked there, and  we scoped out a spot that we could land a fish without a gaff.
     There was current, structure, and a rip.  Anything we could hope for.  It was night in Nov.  There HAD to be fish there.  After messing with several lures, working the water column, Steve puts on a black bomber and a few casts in gets a 27 3/4 bass.  I proceeded to switch to a bomber. We stayed for another hour, then headed back.  All in all a pretty good post-Sandy fishing excursion.  We had thought the fall might be over for us, but really, it's just beginning. 
     On our way out we were pulled over by a Barnegat Light policeman with an M-16.  A little overkill, I thought, even if there were looters around.  Apparently there was an 11 p.m. curfew for LBI.  I'm wondering why they wouldn't at least put a sign up at the bridge that leads to the island letting people know?  Hopefully the shore will return to some sort of normal soon.