Friday, December 13, 2013

A fish of ten thousand paddles By: Steve Evans

One of my first "back bay" stripers. Now we catch many this size.

       It's a tough fall we had this year. I know we're not the only ones who came up with very little for a lot of hard hours put in, but sometimes that's how it goes. Every year or every season the fishing game plays out a little differently. I've been fishing since I could walk, but fishing saltwater from a kayak is a game that developed out of my pursuit of striped bass from shore. So it began with surf fishing for striped bass on Island Beach in fall of 2010. In summer of 2011 we got kayaks but we were still, at that time, basically shore fisherman with the expanded range offered by these man-powered plastic vessels. But that expanded range was enough, we were catching a lot more fish, and not just stripers but flounder and bluefish and even a weakfish or two. Now we are kayak fishermen, we still jump out and cast when the situation calls for it but we are developing our techniques to use the kayak as what it is: a specialized boat, which is the most effective tool for stealthy fish hunting in shallow water, day or night, and can be car-topped and launched from almost any beach or shoreline. So it's a new approach to the same pursuit which for me has always been to catch more, and especially, bigger fish.
Alexi gestures to the potential fish holding areas.
      Like I said, every year or season the fishing game plays out a little differently. In any given area, predator species are more or less plentiful and varieties of forage more or less abundant. Weather patterns affect the timing and locations for both predator and prey, and so on. It's an inconstant fluctuation of elemental factors, but to be any good at this game you've first got to achieve some degree of consistency just catching fish. Big fish are rare. A lot has been written by many, more informed than I, on fish mortality, young of the year statistics, over-fishing, fish stocks in decline, bad fisheries management and so on, so I will simply say as far as this article is concerned, and I think all would agree, there are many factors that prohibit individuals of many species of fish from reaching truly huge proportions. Furthermore, timing the weather, tide, season and all the multitude of other variables to tilt the odds toward a meeting with this huge fish will leave a very small window indeed. Simply fishing non-stop day and night when that window is open is a good approach but at some point your human weakness will make you crave sleep or food or warmth or comfort before that huge fish shows, or maybe it doesn't show, or maybe it finds something unnatural in the movement of your eel and just swims by without your even knowing.
 On the Chesapeake. 2011. My first year with the kayak.
      Where am I going with this? What's the point!? (you may be wondering) I guess the point is that In this relatively short period of time when I have been trying to catch a giant striped bass I have, as a result, caught more fish than I have ever previously done; I have become a proficient summer flounder fisherman catching my largest this year at 25"; I have taken first place in two kayak specific tournaments and participated in a handful of others; and I have expanded greatly upon my knowledge of tactics and methods for taking a variety of fish. Fishing from a kayak suits my nature, I mean, it puts me on the fish's level, in it's element, and into a connection with the element and the fish which I like very much. I know the areas I fish well enough to navigate them on moonless nights. The paddling keeps me in good shape and helped me quit smoking cigarettes. I get to be out in nature and sleep in a tent pretty much whenever I want (I do have to work sometimes). I've met and learned from a lot of people I couldn't have met otherwise. I get to be involved in an ecosystem, to observe nature from the inside. You probably think that I'm going to say something like "it's not about the fish, it's about being in nature", WRONG. All of this stuff I'm talking about isn't the real game, It is about the fish. It's not any sunset that brings me out there it's the giant fish that I am chasing that drive my focus and my determination. As I keep catching bigger and bigger fish I know I wont be satisfied, I'll have to keep going. So I am disappointed that I didn't crush my personal best for striped bass in Jersey this fall, I am frustrated by the overall lack of fish, but there's big bass down south and we're going to meet them. Yes, it is all about the fish, but I like the other stuff too.



Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sometimes all you catch is a nice sunset..., By Alexi

     "A wet hook is better than a dry hook," I overheard Grumpy hisself say this to a customer.  I'm not sure I believe it.  Word on the street (or the internet) is that they're all gone.  That's right, I said it.   All of the fish are gone.  Since we're new to this game, we don't have a lot of personal data to go by.  Asking each and every old salt will garner the same answer, numbers are down, regulators are slow to respond or unresponsive.  It's our duty to self impose stricter limits.  But still, really no fish of any class size at all in three consecutive trips?  Even if it is partially due to a smaller YOY class, or the total decimation of the species in the great sand eel blitz of 2011, you'd think that there would still be SOME fish in the bays.  Well we sure couldn't find them, from Cape May county to Barnegat Bay, we couldn't even cach a damn cold!!

the boats were full of themselves with potential

into the sunset we launch

and confidence increases
After fishing the evening bite for a few hours we camped out by a tree.
In thew morning the water nearly washed away my kayak.

overcast, perfect, but not a bite...

Full of confidence in the morning, hot coffee and all...