Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Short Post, By: Steve

      Back bay eeling: start November 19th end November 20. It's going to be windy, but there'll be a lull, at 1AM, I think. Until then I'll walk the sodbanks, cast upstream, reel my eel back to me. Bunker and spearing by the launch. I feel some knocks, land two fish. The wind never really stops, except for a half an hour break, I paddle out and drift the big deep water. The wind blows in again. I go back to walking the sodbanks, I cast with the wind, reel my eel back to me. No one is around on this side, It rains hard at times, I fish until sunup.
the end.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Buffalo Hunting by: Steve

"When they had eaten all they could, the crier shouted to the people: "All come home! It is more than I can eat!"- from "Black Elk Speaks"

      When the fish are in shoals like herds of buffalo I wish my heroes, Black Elk, or Crazy Horse, or Sitting Bull, or even Geronimo or King Nummy, could help me with words.

      We cooked fish over a fire, friends were there, and there was plenty for everyone. As always those who had been in the ocean were still in the ocean. Nick is a new friend, he says "You can't say a dolphin is better than a dog, it's a push." Nick likes to play cards. I know a lot of people who love fishing, and also love cards and gambling, I have a theory about that, for some other time. Alexi knows Nick, "Steve's got theories." says Alexi to Nick.

      Yes, and here's one for you all:
         Looking back I've found, I've never been good at doing posts from great trips. This isn't supposed to be a bragging board, It's not "Kayak Warriors" the TV show. We fish often for striped bass and we do so almost year round, from kayaks, and land too, but mostly kayaks. These pictures and stories are the fat rendered of many, many hours. We've caught many, many fish, most of them are small resident fish in our bay systems which we target with lures and light tackle. Yes, we have learned some things. With many hours of fishing we have learned to be consistent under 'normal circumstances'.
      The fall and spring runs will sometimes produce 'abnormal circumstances' things like blitzes, mid-day bites, even very large concentrations of big fish which sometimes appear like buffalo herds grazing under calm seas, and sunny skies. Quit your job.
        If you get up at 3am in west Philly, you will hear the freight train hoot like an owl, and there is plenty of time to have a sip of coffee, pick up boats, and friends, and friend's shoes, wherever they are, and to get all of the things that all of your friends need, making many stops along the way, so that you, and your friends can get to the Jersey Shore, to go fishing and have fun...


       There were humpback whales, and bunker, and striped bass erupting all over, The air was mild and the ocean was calm, I have to remind myself of these things since there is so much to remember, besides the fishing, on days like this. Alexi and I each caught our first bass early, probably at the same time but we were in different areas...
      So many fish were hooked throughout the morning, some lost boatside, some out of sight. but we didn't boat another for many hours, and we needed ice.
Took a land break, gave bunker to surf fisherman, got ice. Friends came in, we went back out.
      There were still fish out there...
      In fact the largest fish I've had in my kayak yet. She was safely released. We can only guess at the measurements..... and then Alexi...
      How could I tell the story of how Alexi called his shot on a bass on the way to the beach, saying "right about now!" as his line went down?... It's harder to write a great trip than a good trip, or even a bad trip. Enough people will talk about the great fall, and there will be pictures of big, BIG fish, to impress. This is what we do, the weather will change, and we will go fishing, next time we might have a picture of a pretty 23 inch bass, or of nothing. A little bit of experience gives a fisherman a little bit of perspective, sometimes the cards, so to speak, all line up, and you are the one holding them, for a moment, what a nice thing.
After All.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Brevoortia Tyrannus, by Alexi

Bunker,  MossBunker, Atlantic Menhaden
     Start in the middle:  Just me and the dolphins floating and playing, 100 yards from the New Jersey shore, in the Atlantic ocean.  
The little black spot is a dolphin 
It's around 6 a.m.  The water is calm; usually there is very little wind before the sun rises, though first light has already been around for a half hour at least.  It's really amazing how fast the sun rises along an open horizon.  I paddled out and floated there, not doing anything, just watching the dolphins, looking for signs of bunker.  My shoulder was hurting a little from the past two days of paddling.

     I had been to the Sedges with Nick for a camping/ fishing expedition where I slept funny on my shoulder, and now I was feeling it.
The sun is already up, we are late
We drifted eels in Snake Ditch at night.   Then we woke leisurely the next morning.  I had a "morning" bass on a bass assassin, but no other action.
Nuclear Chicken Bass Assasin always does the job on schoolies
We paddled against the current back to the launch, loaded all of our gear, and headed to the first place we could surf launch.  We were going to snag bunker and catch large fish.

     The launch was un-eventful (Nick did well for his first time), and apparently we had just missed the whale (and quite likely the bite as well).  It was already 11:00 a.m.  We floated around with snagged Bunker for a couple of hours, (no fish) then decided to make a move with the truck north a few townships.

     I said, "Maybe we needed to be here at first light, that's when I've had my best luck out here."

     We drove around to different townships, looking for signs of bigger fish striking fear in the bunker pods from underneath, or boats hooking up, but either our perception was wrong, or the bite was indeed a morning bite, and the bass were not feeding.   We left the shore around 4 p.m. feeling not quite defeated.  I knew what I had to do: go home, rest, get back out there the next morning at first light.

  Back in the ocean. 
Just me and one other boat

      As the sun peaks its head up along the horizon I see a few fins and tails, not a lot, but enough to give me a sense of confidence.  The bunker are here, they just need to wake up.   A few minutes later, drifting and dreaming and watching the dolphins play, I see a dark area not too far off in the distance.  I rig up my one rod with a snag and paddle over.  My heart is racing.  No mistakes allowed out here.  Large treble hooks impale people.  Whales/ Mary Lee (the Great White)/ dolphins and me.  We are alone.  First bunker snagged, I have a run off, tension, then seconds later my line goes limp!       "Damn bluefish" I exclaim.
     However, upon retrieving the end of my line, and after further scrutiny, I deduct that in my haste I had tied a faulty knot.  My only other snags are larger than what I'd normally use, and I only have two more, so if there are giant bluefish out there my trip could get cut short quickly.  I carefully tied my new snag on, cast it out and hooked another bunker.  Maybe it's getting harassed?  I adjust my drag so if a fish grabs it there is a little tension, but not too much.   Always adjusting.   I'm trying to avoid gut hooking any fish. I like to leave the rod in the rod holder on my kayak, I trust it more than my own hands.  I feel my boat turn... fish on.  I grab my rod from the rod holder, pull hard, and set the hook.  A very real tug of war ensues.
My St Croix rod holds up to the test
The fish sounds.  My rod is doubled over.  We are even.  The sun is mostly up off of the horizon.  I gradually start to win the tug of war and land a nice 35" bass.  The dolphins have moved on, and I hear the first boat coming up the shore.  It's further out than me, and appears to cruising past when it takes a turn towards me and my solitude.
    For the next hour it's just me and that one boat catching bass from under a relatively small pod of bunker.  I land a total of 5 bass all from 35-40".  Part of me wants to stay and try to beat my personal best, (42") but another part of me wants to leave the zoo that the shore had become, as every boat in New Jersey was now fishing the giant slick of bunker that stretched from Barnegat Inlet to the Manasquan inlet.
One of 5 fish 35 to 40" 
     It seems that the good weather, calm seas, and bunker pods with fish on them were all lined up to have a good time fishing last week for kayaks, paddle boards, boats, and surf fishermen alike.  An occurrence which does not happen often in my experience.   Tight lines!  
all but one safely released 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

One Dozen Eels; by Alexi

     There's nothing like trying to get out of the city at 4:30 in the afternoon on a weekday.  I don't care what city you're in, it's just plain the worst.  So, we were sitting in traffic and I was trying to explain to Nick the subtleties of eel fishing from a kayak.


      I basically said "Just don't let the eel fuck you, because it's going to.   It's going to wind itself up into an eel knot around your line and commit eel suicide.  But don't let it.  Get it in the water quickly."

    What has in the past taken as little as an hour and a half turned in into an epic four and half hour trip.  Of  course we had to stop a lot as well as sit in traffic.   Traffic, coffee, sandwiches, bait, motel.  traffic. coffee. traffic.


He said, " A dozen eels? I can't put them in there, you'll have to do it outside.  I'll put them in a bucket.  If I try to do it in here I'll be chasing them all over the place."

I say "Yup."

I think to myself: that's exactly what usually happens, why do it differently?  I always thought chasing the eels in the shop was part of fishing.

 He said, "You want 40 lb braid? O.K."  the O and the K are both drawn out.....

 He said, "What kind of backing do you want?"

(I didn't know people had a preference for backing)

In the darkness there is mystery


She said, "Good luck tomorrow. "

I laughed to myself, and thought, "you mean tonight."

 She said, "Did you see the fish the other kayaker caught?"


She said,  "Doesn't it pull you in?"


"Your in room 14, it's around the back."


Later, (but not much,)  at the gate, they didn't ask if we were fishing.

Winter anchorage:

9:29 P.M.

      We paddled directly into the wind, heading out to the channel to have a meeting with a large fish.  Nick had a new set-up, a Calcutta paired with a St Croix rod.  A perfect combo for striper fishing. Half way across the flat,  a car arrives at the launch.  What were they doing?
     Paddle paddle.
     No ghosts, Just witches.  For all intents and purposes, the Moon was full.  
     Nicks first eel committed suicide.  (Not a good start, but at least that hurdle was over.)
     Around 1 A.M. some other boats arrived on the scene and it looked like they were drifting eels in Oyster Creek Channel as well.  For a Thursday night, there was more boat traffic than I expected.  Nick didn't have a light on, and I was wondering if he had been run-over by the boats.  But then he appeared.  
     We had arrived at the channel in time for a perfect drift.  We stayed there for a couple of hours fishing both sides of slack tide.  I might have had one run-off, but couldn't really tell.  It was pretty windy, and nothing was going on.  I wanted to get out of there.

     I really wanted to head straight to the Sedge House, but I wasn't sure if Nick knew where it was, or if I went too fast if he'd be lost.  Eventually we got there.

2:15 A.M.

Zing Zing.  Slack line.  Zing Zing.  Slack line.  This fish kept swimming towards me just when I was trying to bend my rod.  I land a nice 29" fish.

We fished that hole for a while longer, but the cold and the wind started to kick in, and the thought of the warm Motel room was luring us back.

It was 4:30 AM by the time we laid down.

The End

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

4 years fishing in the dark. By, Steve

      This October completes a fourth year for this blog. As with all things existential, we have never known what it is, or why we are doing it. A log? report? Journal? It has provided at least the satisfaction of a creative outlet, and even at times a motivation to fish, when there is no reason except to get a picture and a story. From time to time we look back through our old blog posts. Sometimes we honestly don't remember what we were doing this time last year, or the year before so we look back just for an idea of what to do this year or next. Some posts are just pictures, others are elaborate, tedious, meandering, diatribes. I am glad when I do look back sometimes just to realize that above all, or at least in spite of all, we were fishing.

      As always I enjoy drawing ideas into this dubious world of 'sport' fishing from unexpected realms and sources. My favorite filmmaker, Werner Herzog is fond of saying "If you want to quit smoking, quit smoking" I feel that sentiment is enough to answer what this is and why we are doing it. We keep wanting to go fishing, so we go fishing. We keep wanting to write this blog, so here's the proof.
Enjoy this reverse narrative in Haiku form, with the pictures in no particular order.

Dry old farts, in cars
Say "You guys look serious!" 
No, we are joking.

Leftover Bloodworms
We throw away to shorebirds
Bucketeers bridge tog.

Radio deserted.
Who would believe we alone
are anywhere near?

Pinch the tail and tongue
Stretch fish to desired length,
Take home for dinner!

Slack tide at daybreak
An appropriate time for
trolling tube and worm.

Straight hooks catch no fish
Anatomical deceit,
opposable thumbs!

Feet freeze first, thaw last
Save-a-lot not just any
Old grocery store.

A fish still swimming
In King Nummy's mind is one
No one else can see.

The End


Monday, October 12, 2015

Jane's Island, High times and Low, by: Steve

      I haven't fished in over a month, luckily everything is right where I left it, in no time I cast to the first point. First point, first fish. At Jane's Island we like to say "There's a fish on every point!". 

It is night, we are trolling small bass assassin's rigged weedless, picking up small bass along the banks. KGB is with us, he did not read our Jane's Island post from last year, nothing is where he had left it. he is not trolling yet...

small bass on the troll
      These fish are small 12-19 inch specimens, we want to fish to a spot that Alexi and I both have a picture of in our Imaginations. KGB is getting ready to launch, I troll back that way to get him started in the right direction, he didn't look at the map of Jane's Island

KGB hooks up! the fish hits his rod, it is gone. This will be his last trip.

      A bigger fish is in shallower water...

night rockfish
      Hot dogs and buns in case of no fish. If fish then hot dogs for stuffing. Old bay, foil, and charcoal, good. Beer, of course. We did forget two things: Lemon and Butter... We had a party.

      Hard to wake up. But we did early enough to go into a little mist. The current moved us north. KGB's setup fell into the water because of a bad boat, he jumped in after it. He didn't try to fish again. He never will.

hung up to dry (for good?)
      Alexi and I drifted back north. We caught a fish on every point along the way, and two speckled trout, but not big ones.

small trout
      After a while we started back towards the launch to find KGB. Jane's Island is a large area for a kayak, with lots of winding trails, no cell reception, and KGB doesn't carry a marine radio, so we figured we better find him and make a plan.

      We found him right where we left him, trying to snag his rod off the bottom with a heavy bucktail, it was hard to watch. Alexi and I have gone through some tackle over the years, lost and broken setups, radios, cameras, sunglasses and on and on, Alexi says "You can't stay mad forever". I don't know, but I think KGB will stay mad for a very long time.

      Me, I can't wait to get back to Jane's Island...

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Another slow trip for me; by Alexi


     Another brief wind window to fish this past week:  

   AND It seems as if I'm where the schools aren't, though I am able to find and land a few fish.  Most of the little action I had was on small soft plastics.   
the sedges have turned brown

the osprey are almost gone

the schoolies are getting bigger

the camping is getting better with cooler nights

Monday, September 21, 2015

Sept 17 report; by Alexi

A few pictures and a brief report:

Fishing has been slow.  I've been targeting bass and blues because that's what's fun.  I managed to use my bluefish whispering powers and conjure up about a 5lb blue at Oyster Creek Channel.  I also had some short bass on topwater and some more follows casting at the points in the creeks.  There are still lots of snapper blues around, and we (Nick and I) caught some of those as well.  



looks small, really about 5lbs

topwater flats in the day

calm waters, old

Monday, September 14, 2015

Confidence: by Alexi

     I've fished the Sedges behind IBSP a lot.  I've also fished it thoroughly; so much so, that I feel like I have stirred a fish at each and every point, nook, corner, crevice, flat, rip, hole and so on...Where does this get me?  Incidentally to the same logical point as if I had caught fish no-where.  What I mean is: when I was in my kayak trying to find some bass with Nick the other night, I had a sudden realization that we could go to any number of about a thousand spots where I would have an equal sensation of utter confidence that I was going to catch a fish on the next cast (on the next cast.)  And that sums up the thing that separates the obsessed and dedicated fisherman from the person just trying to enjoy themselves.  At the risk of a misquote someone may have once said: "What's amazing about Steve is that he thinks he's going to catch a fish with each cast." Well, that's just how it is for us.  Cast and cast and cast.  And that is how, the other night, Nick was able to land his first back bay striper:

"Well played" I said, because he had some light test mono on a shitty reel attached to a fine St Croix rod that I was letting him borrow.

As John Gierach writes in his Novel Still Life With Brook Trout:  "Once you've played a few fish well, especially some big, strong ones in tough spots, it begins to look a little more like applied common sense---let him run when you have to and pull him back when you can---but it's still something you have to learn out on the water with live fish and real current, snags, rocks and weeds."

Back bay striper

     We put a lot of work into the kind of fishing we do.  Nick heard that fish rise and feed at his feet.  He had the confidence it took to cast over and over again, stealthily and with precision until BAM! Fish on!
    Me? I had all of my two fish on the troll with a weedless bass assassin.

fish 1

fish 2

(Yes, these really are two different fish.)

We fished a little more in the morning. I had a follow all the way to my boat on a topwater lure, but it didn't commit to it, and Nick got to see what it looked like where we had been fishing at night twice now in the daylight.  It was a Saturday morning and the people, and the boats, and the dogs, and the kids all came out as we headed in...

The End


Saturday, September 5, 2015

"On good advice" By Alexi

     It's 2:16 A.M. Friday, September 4, 2015.  I have a camera in my hand and I am about to take a picture of Nick holding a fish.  It's a Weakfish (Cynoscion regalis).  A fish so elusive (to me) I have sincere pangs of jealousy (masked as enthusiasm) when I see it.  I had been catching fish, (though not a lot,) on the past two trips with Nick, so I am actually very glad that he was able to hook up.   Where exactly does this story begin?


What brings a man to this?  Steve was reading Walden.  We fished.

     "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things."  Henry David Thoreau

     What brings anyone to this point?  To be nestled under the deck of a vacation home for the wealthy in a well off beach-town in middle of the night?  To travel for hours, from the "desperate city" with the prospect of missing a nights sleep?  ....Why?

    I won't start the story TOO far back, but when I look down at the spider diagram  of the events surrounding the capture of this picture, it's like the internet image of a spiders web on caffeine; appropriate in many ways.  Caffeine fueled is what we do.  (Insomniacs.)

     Last week I went out fishing with Nick.
 He borrowed an extra kayak and we went for an all nighter to the sedges.   He was skunked, I had a few bass.  Anyway, at our poker game later that week he unexpectantly says "I bought a kayak."   It's a Trident 13!  Really THE perfect kayak for the fishing in the dark crew.  Now we're cooking.  A few texts later and we were back out in his truck headed towards the new Bass Pro Shop in Atlantic City.        

      If you've ever been to Atlantic City you know it's fairly run-down, but we were surprised by the new facades of businesses as we approached the Bass Pro.  I bought some bass assassins and a few other things all adding up to about a million dollars.  Nick spent his first million (of many to come) on tackle as well.  Next order of business: caffeine.

     I consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur of Starbucks restrooms (being in a band that tours) but hands down the Starbucks in Atlantic City is the worst.  Plus, there was nowhere to park to get your coffee!  We managed it, I jumped out and Nick circled the block, and with time to kill we headed to the fishing grounds.

  At the launch we were intentionally taking our time.  I had some new braid to spool onto a reel, and we were waiting for the tide to come in and for night to settle.  There were ghosts a-plenty at the boat ramp, all with the same comments:

 "Could you fit any more stuff there?"
"Why yes I can actually"
"How long you fishing?"
"Until at least 4 A.M."
ghost launch

    And a ghost gets into his own sit inside kayak with no pfd, one rod, and a bait bucket.   I'm sure he's fine.

     On pretty solid advice, my plan was to hit some new night spots.  (Originally with Steve, but he couldn't make it.)  The plan was to fish the dock lights all night, concentrating our efforts around high tide.  While I've fished light lines before around bridges, I really didn't know what I was in for.  These lights provide consistent bait for predatory fish who swim with confidence through the light eating whatever they please: crabs, spearing, peanut bunker, mullet, grass shrimp, and so on... all visible, nothing spooked by the kayak.  (They were only ever spooked when catching a fish)

Alien lights

     The first spit of docks we arrived at had an underwater light.  This was all new to me, and as we approached I saw the circling fish.  Clearly schoolie stripers with the occasional larger one mixed in, but nothing THAT big for anyone coounting.  We're talking 15-25" fish.  They weren't feeding on top, and nothing we threw at them seemed to work.  We fished small soft plastics  about 6" blelow the surface and crystal minnows.  Frustrated, we moved on, away from the maddenning situation.  The fish were there, and they were eating, but we couldn't catch them.  We moved on and into another maddenning situation.  And then I got it!  I wasn't catching fish, but I got what is meant by "fishing the dock lights at night."  We hop from light to light and look for fish.
     Our bass assassin soft plastics were the perfect imitation for the bait.  So much so, that as I stared at the bait swimming around one of them jumps up  out of the water then floated there in mid air until I realized, holy shit, that's Nicks god-damned Bass Asassin!

one of three bass 

The thing is, I couldn't ever feel like I had these fish locked in on a pattern.  Retrieve, lure, cast placement, depth: I just couldn't get it.  So for me it was frustrating.  Three fish in one night.  But that leads us to Nick and his fish.
Nick's secret fishing spot

     There we were, it was getting late, and he was dedicated to fishing this one dock light.   I moved around, hit some other lights, and came back, and he's under the damn dock casting across the light reeling slowwwww....and BAMMM.  FISH ONNNNNNNNNNNN.  Alright! I'm psyched for him to have caught his first yak fish!  Wait! What is that? A god-damned Weakfish!?  Now I'm pumped!  Pink fin-ess and jig head all the way.

     We hit the same lights on the way back to the launch, working our way slowly, with little success.  Fatigue was really settling in, and it seemed as if we were going to try to make the trip home that morning.
     I'm always glad to try something new, especially on good advice, but there was something nagging me in the back of my head on the way home that night; if we had fished the Sedges would we have caught WAY more fish?  With almost complete certainty I can say Nick would not have caught a Weakfish, and so despite the relatively few fish caught, it was by all accounts, a successful trip, at a new spot, with a new technique.

     Thanks for the tip.