Sometimes, One is Enough

[Note from the Author: A long post, because this is my first fish of the season.  Deal with it- J]

I admit it.  I have chased reports.  In fact, what do you think sent me to RI last weekend?  But, after last weekend’s surprising skunk, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’ve been reading.  And there are a few conclusions I’ve come to, none of which are original.  1) You wait for the report, you’re too late.  2) If you wait for the report, you aren’t learning.  3) If you wait for the report, it could be too late.

So, last night, despite a 11 hour day, I said F&*$ the reports, I’m going fishing.  I don’t care I’m not going to catch anything, honestly.  I just need to get out!  These 80 degree May days send me into a fever, I swear…restless, I felt fidgety all day.  On the drive to this location, I had to constantly control myself or the speedo needle would start creeping up and up…

I haven’t been out in my wetsuit this season, nor have I had a chance to try out the new Van Staal.  So that was primary in my mind when I hit the rocks at about 8:30pm.  I guess I’ve become a chicken, because I was walking out to a rock I had been to before (even in my waders) and I looked down in the water and saw a large flat rock and thought it was a seal, and just about had a heart attack.  Oh, how silly I felt, and laughed out loud to myself as I crawled out onto the seaweed covered rock.  I stood casting for about 20 minutes with a 5” redfin, using the SW wind at my back to propel the tiny plug.  Not a touch.  This I expected.

I jumped off and waded back.  I returned to my classic spot in this location, one both Carly and I have had good luck at, and I’ve had multiple 12+ fish nights here.  But I’ve never caught anything that big here, since I usually use it as an early season spot.  I think maybe 2 fish at or over 25”, and no keepers, and usually in Mid-May.  I waded out to my waist, and started casting.  I fished the redfin, and then a swim shad for a few minutes.  It didn’t give me a good feeling, so I switched to a 1.5oz gibbs surface danny.  Love this little plug.  2 casts in, and I felt a strange twang of my line and a splash.  NO.  FREAKING.  WAY.  THERE’S FISH HERE???

I lost a fish after that, a rat no doubt trying to get it’s miniature mouth around my chunk of floating wood.  But it didn’t matter.  The night took on a WHOLE new light.  I switched to a Tsunami sand eel imitation (6”, heavy) to try and get SOMETHING for my first fish of the season.  I had 1 bump, and set the hook to nothing.  Grr.  A small needle and SP minnow gave me the old goose egg.

Another hour went by without anything happening.  I started to get cold, despite the 7mm of neoprene on my chest.  I retreated from the water, and jumped to the other side of some rocks that gave me some shelter from the wind.  I fished this side for 20 minutes, and then was so cold I was shaking.  I decided to do a little walk, and scout.  I found that the whole area had changed dramatically since I had last been there in November.  I couldn’t believe it, but so glad I saw it.

I returned to the “spot” and worked a bomber long shot for a while, without a touch.  Around 11:00 I decided, “10 casts and I’m done”.  Might as well put the Gibbs back on.  I’ll spare suspense.  9 casts in, I felt a tap, and set the hook into a thrashing fish.

Now, anyone who surf fishes understands that the first fish of the season is always special.  So you won’t be surprised to hear I was laughing maniacally.  And it always feels way bigger than you think.  So as I tussled with this bass, I knew immediately it wasn’t a rat, and I started to think, as it shook it’s head…”could this be a f&$*#!g keeper???”  I dragged it into the wash and was immediately disappointed that it wasn’t a keeper (it was obvious it wasn’t a 10lb fish), but I rebounded when I realized, this was probably the biggest fish I had caught this early in the season, ever.  I laid her out next to my rod, quickly snapped these awful pictures, and got her back in the water, where she stuck me with her dorsal and splashed me.  I just kept saying: “that’s a nice fish!” as my hand bled and I wiped salt from my eyes. 

Post-release measurement using my tape had her right at 26”.  A small fish in June, something I was thrilled with now!

I was freezing again, and it was approaching 11:30, and the prospect of having to be at work at 8 at the latest (I’m in the middle of the study from hell), and a 70 mile drive home kept me to 10 more casts.  On cast 5 I got another hit and hooked what felt like a small fish, and lost it promptly without more than a few cranks of the handle.  I was almost happy when the 10th cast yielded nothing but a snagged front treble.

As I got in bed at 1:30 this morning, I thought to myself: valuable lesson learned.  You won’t know if you don’t go!  All the internet sites are saying fish have just reached the Canal.  Well, guess what?  I was miles from the canal.  And the internet sites are also saying fish are small, 20” or less.  No way I “should” have been throwing a metal lip of that size.  Well, guess that’s wrong too.

And while it wasn’t a knock out evening (in 2 weeks I will be upset if I only catch 1 schoolie a night) I did catch my first MA and surf fish of the season.  And 2 weeks earlier than last year at that!

But the best part?  I got to WRITE the report that others will now chase…