Outfront in May

I arrived at the parking lot fully geared up in my wetsuit.  Much to my chagrin, there was a truck parked in “my” spot with a canal bike.  Being a Saturday night, I had already thought through this scenario on my way down the highway, and had plan “B” ready to go if he/they were on my rock.

I crept towards the spot, taking off my Korkers so I could sneak up on him and watch to see what he was doing.  I was disappointed to see that yes, he was standing on “the” rock.

But, he was fast to a fish.  And next cast, as I stood in the gentle S wind watching him, he landed another.  Schoolies, but not a bad sign.  Straining my eyes in the dark, from about 200 feet away I could make out the faint outline of an eel on his line.  As I watched, he pulled out his cellphone and called his buddy.  Turns out he would do that after nearly every fish the rest of the night.  Incredibly irritating but not uncommon these days.

I debated clicking my red light on to alert him to my presence.  I’ve been cast over before when out on a rock, and without him having any idea I was here, I feared his buddies would show up and start casting eels into my back.

I decided not to.

I quietly clipped on my Korker over shoes and slipped into the water.  It was not warm.  May had been terribly cold, and despite it being 75 today, the water was just a touch over 52 degrees.

I waded out to the rock; I couldn’t see it.  The tide was high, and with no wave action I had to just trust my scouting and my directional abilities.  I found it by bumping into it.  Despite it being a Full

Moon, overcast skies and spitting rain gave me no illumination to see anything in the water.  The water was up to almost my armpits.

I hauled myself up on the rock into calf deep water, and noticed the guy had another schoolie he was releasing.  Back on his phone…

I snap on a Super Strike Yellow-over-White darter.  I loaded this particular one with bird shot, and it ran a touch deeper and casted a little better than a normal darter.

I casted for about 10 minutes with said lure.  The rip was working pretty good, and the guy down the way continued to bring in fish after fish.  One he landed looked decent, maybe into the high-teens. 

Only reason I could tell is because he walked it around the rock and further back, and then lifted it fully out of the water, and as he did in the distance a house light clicked on at the precise moment and I got a nice silhouette of the fish.

I was frustrated.  I hadn’t even had a hit as I entered into 20 minutes of casting.  I bet this guy landed a dozen fish in that time.  Mostly small, except for the aforementioned teen bass.

Finally, I hooked up and horsed in a 10-12lb bass on the darter.  But after releasing it, I had no more hits for at least 10 more minutes.

The wind was dying, and as it did, so did the rip.  Things got really quiet, and now I was sure he knew I was here because my casts resulted in what felt like really loud splashes, and the Velcro on my surf bag seemed deafening.  He was catching nothing now, and it seemed like maybe I had missed the bite.

I automatically snapped on a large 3.5oz Danny plug, because the conditions were prem-o for it.  Immediately I started getting fish blowing up on it, including on savage hit that was likely an undersized fish making a strong attempt at it.  Three casts in a row this happened.  And nearly every cast for ten casts, with one dropped fish.  I decided to switch to something else.  The tide was shifting and the ebb rip was starting to set up.

I decided on a large Savage Gear Freestyler- a glide bait that I had recently stumbled upon and really liked.  But, much like the Danny, all I was getting was hits and no hook ups.  So I switched to the smaller one- which is a dead ringer for peanut bunker.

My “friend” down the way hasn’t caught a fish for a while now.

First cast, as the smaller glide bait is just about to swing out of the building rip, BANG.

The fish takes off for Europe.

20, 30, then 50 yards of line melt from my reel.  This is the fish I’ve been looking for.

I feel my line rubbing on rocks, but apply heavy pressure to get her nose up.  She responds by taking more line!

I work her back up the rip, and about 30 yards out she goes again.

This repeats again.  I’m foolishly only using 30lb braid and a 50lb leader and I’m starting to wish I had the 50lb braid.

I work her close, and she goes yet again, right into a boulder.  But I pull her out as she rolls to the surface.

Now’s the tricky part.  I’m standing on a barnacle covered rock, in water about ½ way up my calf, and I have to grab this- what appears- 30lb fish.  I put my rod behind me, high sticking it, and grab the line.  I pull her up on the rock…

…and the slightest of waves pushes her by me and off the back side.

I nearly panic, my knees are knocking.

I swing my rod around and immediately apply heavy pressure as she gets upright and starts thrashing!


She doesn’t.  I get her back on the rock, and slide my hand up under her gill plate.

“F#%$ YEAH” escapes me in a hushed voice.

I unhook her in the water, and do a quick rod measure.  She’s past my 40” mark on my rod.  So maybe 30lbs…maybe not.  Probably not.  But close, oh so close.

I decide…I need a picture.  I decide to take it with just the red light of my headlamp.  I pull the camera lanyard and as I’m fumbling trying to get the flash off…

…FLASH.  The camera goes off.

Well he definitely knows I’m here now!

The deed is done, so I take another with the flash immediately, and quickly release the fish which instantly darts away since I never even had her out of the water.

John Skinner wrote very recently that we all need to change our expectations of a “good” night, because things aren’t what they used to be.

I wonder what he’d think of this fish?

I’d call it a good night.

The guys red light is on, looking at me now, but he doesn’t say anything…we’re pretty far apart.
I cast-cast-cast with no result.  Again, he hasn’t had a fish now for well over 30 minutes.

As the rip picks up I decide to switch to a huge 4oz custom wood darter.

First cast it gets hit, but I drop the fish.

Second cast, just as I’m pulling it up out of the water, it gets slammed.

The fish goes absolutely psycho.  It doesn’t take any more than 30 feet of line, but instead just thrashes like crazy on the surface.  I can’t reel, she won’t stop.  I’m cringing as the noise seems SO 

LOUD on the quiet night.

Finally I subdue the fish and get it up on the rock, but she’s green and I can’t get ahold of her.  I lose her twice into the drink, but finally get her back- with all 6 points of the VMC trebles in her, no way was she escaping.

This fish tapes out at 37”, so into the low 20’s.  I take a picture, and slip her back into the dark water.

A minute later, the guy on the rock yells over: “HEY OVER THERE, ANY LUCK?”

I cringe. 

“Uhh…no, not really,” I try to sell it with my best impersonation of someone having a bad night.

“Nothing?!?!” he says, in an accusatory tone.

A long pause from me.

“No, not really” was all I could muster.

He immediately pulls out his cellphone, and 10 minutes later, two of his buddies show up.

Guess he didn’t believe me.

Over the next hour, between the four of us, we only landed 3 more fish- I landed two “large” schoolies to near keeper on the super strike darter, and I saw them land one similar on an eel.  They lit up some joints, and looked like they were about to leave.

I decided to get in front of them, I really didn’t want to talk to them or have them go back to the parking lot and get a good look at my car.

I jumped off the rock, now out of the water, and hustled to shore, back to the car, and jumped in fully kitted up in the wetsuit still.  I drove to another spot, and got undressed there.  You can’t be too careful this day in age…and after putting the hurt on that spot this spring, I wanted to keep it all to myself…