Saturday, December 29, 2012

dec. 28 report

Quick report ----

Had about five hours of fishing in me, only it was just the wrong time of the tide, and moon phase.

 First I hit the bridge Steve and I were so successful at last week, only the water was really muddy and not moving very quickly.  Then I tried some jetties out front just to kill some time.  The water out front was still dirty and foamy from the past couple of days.  It was a nice night out on the beach, with the full moon, and air temps still above freezing.  So I went back to the bridge to see if the current had picked up, but in fact it was now slack-tide.  I fished it for about an hour anyway, without much confidence.   

that's the full moon

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Dec. 19th report, still fish, still adventures, still mistakes...

   Sometimes, time in the car on the way to the shore passes quickly.
  Conversations about diving, and bridge fishing help it along so it seems like we were never in the car at all.   High tide was around 1 p.m. and were fishing around 11:30.  Perfect and not so perfect, because what it meant was that low tide would be around sunset.
    I had one on the jetty probably around 2 p.m. and that was it for the daytime.  It was about 20".

Frustration started to set in as sunset passed.  Even though this should be the best time to fish, with the strong west wind and a strong moon, there was little water to fish in.  We decided to try to fish by the lighthouse.
     There was a light shining on the water, and a bass lurking around the edges.  I had thought that I saw it roll, but wasn't sure.  I thought I had bites on my bass assassin.  Steve fished that spot, and he had a strike on his rigged eel.  Next cast, same spot, slower retrieve, fish on.  I felt good for Steve, he had put in thousands (well, maybe not quite)  of hours without catching a fish, so it was well deserved.  We left pretty quickly due to some dubious circumstances involving temporary fences with signs about construction, if you get my drift.  We decided to try to fish one more spot....A bridge on the way back.
    We took a look, and decided there would be no way to walk a big fish to shore, and we don't have a bridge gaff.  So, we took a look and found easy access from the side of the bridge.  Also, we noticed lots of top water activity.   Sploosh, splish.  We saw small bait.  The rigged eels weren't working.  The bass assassin wasn't working.  My mostly white teasers weren't working.  There were fish at our feet, and we couldn't catch them.  I put on a black teaser and starting getting bites.  After a couple of casts I had a nice 22" bass on.  After many snags and re-tying and losing gear I had a keeper on a very small black fin-s.  Then another short on a small paddle tail.  Then Steve also hooked up with a short on the fin-s.    It was getting late, so we left  them biting, (always a good feeling.)
    It was classic bass lurking in the shadows of the bridge sipping small bait off the surface.

    In general, we feel like we're constantly learning about Barnegat Bay fisheries and the areas we concentrate our fishing in.  Last year we gave up on fishing in the bay after one failed effort at Snake Ditch.  This fall we were forced to search out new places to fish, and have been able to consistently find fish, and some more than 28" well into Dec.  But maybe that's a topic for another blog entry.

As we were on the highway on the way back we heard a small yet clear thump at the side of the car. Not to go too much into the details, apparently Steve's $20,000 combo never made it IN the truck, just sat on TOP of the truck for ALMOST all the way home.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Kas, by Steve Evans

      Two days of fishing Long Beach Island mid-November might have gone by unremarkably. I fished sunset to dark the first evening, I fished sunrise the second morning and planned to fish the same night. On the incoming tide the first night I had three small bass topping out around twenty inches around the jetties at sixty-seventh street. The following day after nothing in that area at sunrise I moved my car. I parked at the eighth street access to Barnegat light state park around ten am with the sun climbing higher to fuss with gear and formulate a plan. There I noticed an angler, a middle aged gentleman of slight build in an orange down jacket, rain pants, gaff and rock cleats clear the trail head from the dunes.
      The conversation between strange fisherman is not unlike interactions between strangers in other customary social circles; the subtle bartering in the currency of trust and information; judgement, suspicion and curiosity; the establishment of commonality through esoteric displays of not-so-hidden knowledge, social niceties, quid pro quo and often a humble peppering of boastful talk.
      I asked how the morning's fishing had been and my counterpart shrugged an uninspired "nothing". We talked about fishing and I marked his equipment and attire as he unpacked and sorted by the tailgate of his car. From half a dozen hand made denim pockets sewn inside his jacket he brought out thick plastic bags each one rolled out with a lure inside, some lures had been touched up or modified with acrylic craft paints, he showed marks where some had been hit by fish and lamented others that remained untouched. he had a modified surf bag with extra pockets attached for his sandwich and water bottle and other considerations like a rope stringer for fish. His rod was a stout custom with a meticulously cared for Penn slammer from 1976 spooled with fifty pound test braided line.  His gaff had been extended ingeniously to an appropriate jetty length by connecting old titanium golf club handles, he marked that he had never used the gaff to land a fish but he felt it to be sufficient. He drew out an index card on which the tides were written. High would be in an hour. We agreed to meet out on the rocks.
      With the tide coming in strong, a heavy surf and a heavy northeast wind working, the water in the inlet was pretty aggressive. My new friend Kas worked his way, carefully casting from the middle of the jetty, backing up a rock or two lee side when an especially menacing set of waves bore down on the rocks.
      Having slept in my car the previous night still suited in my waders; which by definition is sleep only in the sense of vaguely not being awake and certainly not fishing, I was beginning to sense the  world under the sun increasingly surreal; the muffled boom of surf; the hot sensation of wind burn which I know should really feel cold; detached somehow from the labor of casting like an exhausted runner watching helplessly the dogged plodding of feet one after the other while the mind is delerious with fatigue.
      From a more rational standpoint my enthusiasm for daylight fishing for striped bass is luke warm. I said as much to Kas when we met at the eighth street access, but he said he was too old to fish at night. Scrappy and rescourceful in a way that's admirable: his homemade gaff with a strap to carry on his back, his refashioned attire, rock cleats, rope, knife, lures and line ready to handle a big fish on the rocks. From our talk I gathered that he fished this jetty often, though he had no brag of great fish, only griped somewhat that no legal flounder had come to hand for him this past season. I hoped that he would get a good fish today.
      About the time I was ready to hang up for the afternoon, exhausted and with a night of fishing yet to rest for, I shot a look over to Kas. I saw his knees were bent, his back arched, and his rod bowed deep and pulsing with the head shakes of a heavy fish. I watched him play out the fight as I knew he had imagined it, and bring the fish close as a crowd gathered. He unslung the gaff from his shoulder cooly, as a hand finds a pocket out of habit, though I knew he'd never used the thing before. He stuck the fish perfectly on the first shot and I was frozen with amazement, and a strange sort of pride, greater than if it had been my own fish to have seen his plan play out so perfectly.
      I moved over to him to take some pictures and he confirmed what I had suspected "this is my biggest fish!" and he glowed with pride. "HE TOOK SO FAR!...HE TOOK SO FAR!!" and then more cooly "that's why I have fifty".


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Sunday, December 2, 2012


Jason at the launch
   PART 1

     On Friday Nov. 30th 2012 Jason woke up early to leave for a promising fishing excursion.  Jason is Steve's girlfriends brother.  A novice yet enthusiastic kayak fisherman.  We had hope.  It was going to be a productive fishing trip.  By some standards a little late in the season, but Steve's infective optimism has taken hold.
    What do we have so far this season?  What do we have compared to last season?  Nothing.  No keeper striped bass.  So far it's the worst fall striper season for KGB, Steve and I in years.  It's only our second fall with the Kayaks, and we start second guessing ourselves, saying things like "Maybe last fall was exceptionally good," and "it just won't be like that again," and the like.     But this day (perhaps just like every day before the fishing starts) I am extremely optimistic.  the conditions are right.  The surf is low, 0 to 1 ft waves.  Wind 5mph.  Partly cloudy.  We start the day by looking at a couple of spots at the beach to see if there is any significant bird or bait action.  We decide that there is nothing major going on, and go straight for the second part of the plan.  Hit the bay and the inlet.
      Luckily we arrive at Barnegat Inlet just before slack tide. On Steve's first or second cast with a popper  he gets a strike.  (and a miss)  At this point we're thinking, what could be better?  Unfortunately, there's no other action for a while.  As the sun sets Jason accidentally snags a bunker with his swimming plug.  Not knowing that this is the best possible bait to use he discards it.  Then another.  This time Steve sets it up for him to live-line.  
     We have the pleasure to see a Seal swimming around us.We ride the current to Oyster Creek.  Nothing happens there. We start back towards the launch (against the current now) to one more spot that we don't fish often, but have been to once before.  While I'm half-way there Steve and Jason are behind me and I get a call on the radio that they are surrounded by Bunker.  (unfortunately there are no Bass on them.)  We fish this last spot for maybe half an hour and head back to the launch against a very strong current.
     On the car ride back to Philly we can't stop talking about how perfect the conditions were, and how surprised we were that we didn't catch any fish.

     On Saturday Dec 1st 2012 I get a call from Steve around 2 p.m.  I answered the phone simply by saying, "you ready to go fishing?"  Yes? No? Maybe?  We hadn't planned on it.  He was getting off work early.  We both know there's fish in the neighborhood.  We scrounge together a plan.   Canal, surf, jetty, eels.  Supplies; waders, corkers, circle hooks.  Hopefully the bait shop is open.  There's no knowing post-Sandy who is open and needs the business, or just closed.
    We get ells and fish slack tide at the canal for an hour.  We move on.
    An hour later we're at LBI in the surf tossing eels.  There's a strong current pushing south, and after an hour we make our last move to the jetty.
    It's a longer walk than I thought and I start complaining like an old lady.  Miserable and nearly defeated, what I am about to do is stand out in the middle of the ocean on some rocks at high tide with the water spraying over me for one last attempt to get a keeper fish.  Some-how it still makes sense.  There are fish in the ocean.  We are in the ocean.  We have eels.  They love eels.  We are on a jetty, Stripers love jetties.  Why are we still optimistic?  Shouldn't we be completely defeated by now?   The end of the second day of not catching fish?  Shouldn't we give up and throw all of our gear into the abyss?  Let Poseidon have it.  After-all we must have done something to anger the gods to have had such a poor season.   Why do we ruin our lives?  We could be home watching T.V. like normal people.  What is our problem?
    There's isn't a soul around.  It's overcast and the moonlight is dim.  There are seals swimming around in front of us that look like floating rocks.  Dark spots that move on the water.  The air is moist.  Steve is between myself and the end of the jetty.   The crashing surf is loud.  Tap tap. A familiar feeling.  My bait runner isn't on.  No zing.  No tug.  Maybe I'm snagged?  I pull back, I feel a weight.  It's heavy, but not solid.  Fish on.
     I holler to Steve.  He comes over with the gaff.  Once it's clearly visible in the rocks it becomes obvious it's no monster.  We gaff it which could have been a mistake, as it measures at just 28".  Neither of us are experienced at gaffing fish or jetty fishing and lessons are always being learned.
     Half an hour or so later Steve is hooked up, only this time it's definitely short.
     It's coming upon 12:30 and we won't be home until 3 a.m. at this point.  There are still two live eels, but if we are to sleep in our own beds, we need to head back.  If we had stayed would we have gotten into bigger fish?  Or, would we have fallen off the jetty into the ocean in a delirious state of fatigue and exhaustion?