After Cuttyhunk- that went both very well and also pretty terribly (nearly ending in death for the author of this post)- I was smoked. There is a books worth of stories from that single trip, and I'll save them for the winter.
I did fish the next weekend, but the first night was a skunk, and the next night resulted in only 1 fish at ~27/28" and a brief hook up with a big blue that cut me off. It felt pointless after Cuttyhunk. I was so exhausted after the two weeks of hard fishing and then trying to get back into the swing at work that I just couldn't do more than that. DJ Muller just wrote in the SCJ about pushing to the limit and how it will ruin any experience of fishing for you. I was at that point. I felt sick all the time and was absolutely crushed. I think I was also, sincerely, was suffering from depression because I was so sad to not be still fishing and stepping back into a shit storm at work. I was angry and apathetic and unmotivated to do anything.
So I caught up on sleep the whole week, re-focused at work and got a lot done, got some exercise and lots of regular healthy food, and then BOOM the new moon was upon me, and I wanted to hit it hard. There was a spring in my step going into mid-week, and I knew I was ready to go back at it. Here's the re-cap. It was pretty damn good.
The first night mid-week was a bust, but I had to explore. I have to push myself to find new areas. I have found one, but the wind and tide were wrong again. I'll keep at it. I moved after only an hour to another spot, and that one never felt fishy. So I only fished for ~90-120min that night.
The second night, I drove far and walked far. There was a moderately strong ENE wind, and I fished incoming tide. I had to sneak around some other people fishing, and they had no idea I was there until I was right upon them. They fell into silence as I powered by, and I think I might have poached the spot they were eventually going to end up on. Don't worry though- these same guys would have their revenge.
Once I passed, they only fished a little while longer- I could see their head lamps in the distance fading away. Good. All alone after only about 30 minutes.
I worked my buck tail slowly in the current, and on my first cast I landed a 25-26" fish.
I fished for two and a half hours that night on the incoming. I couldn't stick it out to the switch, because I needed to get home for sleep; I had three or four more nights coming and very late night tides. But I landed 11 or 12 schoolies up to almost keeper size that night. Nothing big, but no dinks either. I thought the ebb would probably be more productive. I decided to return later the next night.
So the next night I didn't even show up until after 1am. Pitch black, pouring rain, strong wind. Skipping ahead, by the end of the night, despite my surf top I was soaked to the bone and wet down into my waders. The rain went down the back of my neck (I can't stand wearing a hood), and I was shivering on my walk back.
But the conditions looked stellar. Everything seemed right.
On my first few casts with the big 9" swim shad, I had two savage hits that I couldn't convert. I was so pumped up and the wind and water were pretty intense and I was all alone standing on the edge of the world. As my Australian brethren would say, I was "Frothin'".
I switched to one of the heavy swim shads, swimming it through slack water, and BANG, I was jolted by a hit that could have been mistaken for someone trying to grab my rod.
Brisk fight, first fish landed was 30". Ok, a decent start anyways.
From that point on, it was fish hit, lost, or landed just about every other cast for 3.5 hours. Bucktails again being the profile they cared for the most, but swim shads and darters and metal lips worked too. I landed 26 fish, 7 being confirmed keeper size with 1 at ~31", and there were a couple I didn't bother measuring because they were borderline. And by measuring I mean holding them up to the tape on my rod. I only caught 1 fish under 24-25" too: I was in a school of the year class that I got into last year I think, where I had ~100 fish that night and 61 fish two weeks after. Last year they were 24-26", now, they're 25 nearly 28". It's a good sign. Please, I beg you, if you're reading this: stop keeping fish. Just stop. Have we learned nothing from history?
Anyways, after a while, the bite slowed to a hit every 4 or 5 casts, and then a boat ended up coming out of nowhere and setting up pretty much right in front of me, recklessly close to shore. I think I could have casted over the top of them, and I could hear every word they said. Since it was now nearly , I decided it was time to head home.
In bed at 7am, and sleep until 3ish.
On the road to fish again at 11pm.
I, again, decide to not try and fix what isn't broken. I return to the site again.
And when I do, I find 8 guys with headlights blasting, spread out over nearly a 100 yard area, monopolizing the entire shore. Yelling and running around. From 200 feet away I can hear the sound of old monofilament being recklessly slung through crusty cheap guides. It's a bucket brigade, and some are fishing bait, some are casting, and they have my spot completely swallowed up. If there was three of them, OK, but 8 guys- there's no way I'm going to be able to cast plugs with all those lines in the water (several of the guys had more than one rod).
But, no problem, tide switch is still an hour away, it's . No way they're sticking it out, and even if they do, I have lots of time because I'm trying to fish later into tonight. And it's cold, spitting rain, and while not as windy, it's still windy out of the north.
Welp. After 2.5 hours of casting nearby and watching them intently, they appear to be in it for the long haul.
Totally defeated, I have no choice but to leave. I want to point out I saw them land exactly 2 schoolies the whole time- the same as I did fishing less- ideal areas- and they were in and on either side of where I was fishing the night before.
So now what? Well I had a hunch that I should have gone to a different spot- one I know much better- but again am trying to spread my wings.
Now, I felt I need some security, and the stage of the tide was perfect.
So I made the 45 minute drive, arriving right around 4am. I forgot my damn wetsuit!!! Are you kidding me. The waders go back on, and now I have to be careful. Will I even make it to my spot?
I slammed an espresso drink, and was running to my spot- literally- hopeful that the blackness and moving water would reward me, and the tide would be low enough I could get to the fishy areas.
I made the wade, barely, and hauled myself out trying not to tear my waders- also barely successful. We'll see how long they go without leaking now.
First cast, no brainer, super strike darter in blurple. Way out, a sharp tap, and I'm tight to a fish. Not big- 25" or so, but a good sign.
Another cast, nothing.
Third cast. I'm tense, my spidey senses are tingling.
Over the shallow spot...through the weak current...by that rock (that I imagine is there)...as the plug swings.
Set the hook hard, and it's clear: here we go again.
Big fish. Thrashing on top in the relatively shallow water initially. My drag doesn't budge, I had set it extra hard.
I keep the angle high. As she thrashes, all of a sudden...PING...I feel one of the hooks go. My stomach is in my throat and my heart is pounding!
Then, she goes. There is no stopping her in the current. Every pump of her tail takes her further. But I'm relentless. I'm chanting to myself:
"no mistakes Jerry, no mistakes"
I work her back. I have no idea how big, but she's definitely well over 25lbs I can tell that. She turns around, comes towards me, takes a sharp angle towards shore. She knows, and I know, there's a few big boulders somewhere in there. She knows she can break me off.
I won't let her. I tighten the drag even further. My fiberstar Predator rod is bent deep into the blank. I angle the rod to pull her out, and back towards me. It's a standstill at first, but after a few seconds she's headed my way.
She shoots right by, taking more drag again. Then, she just holds me there.
I am a firm believer in NOT pumping the rod. I will just use my strength to keep the pressure as even as possible, and crank her in using my arm strength. I'm not a big guy- in fact I think I border on small- but I work out hard and therefore I have that to use. I think if you pump hard, you open up a small hole and the hook can pull easier. It's ok to pump sometimes; the key is to just keep the pressure the same. No jerking, and when you drop the rod you don't do it quickly. I think this is UBER important. So for me, I'd rather just smoke my arms. After this fish, they were shaking for a few minutes.
But I'm getting ahead.
So I just hold her. I feel like I'm winning though. And after some more give and take and more head shakes, I have her close. I turn on my red light.
First, she's big. 35lbs big. Second, she's got ONE hook, ONE, on the rear treble, on what would be her nose if she was a person. Kinda the top of the head.
I need to land this fish after losing the monster a few weeks ago, so I go into red alert mode.
I get her to the rock, pull her up parallel. She starts thrashing so I don't grab yet. When she stops I gently grab the leader. She rolls a bit, and I slide my hand down, keeping up pressure on that one hook.
I then try and grab her lower lip. She easily tosses my hand. She then goes crazy. Thinking I'm going to lose her, I drop to one knee, and pin her to the rock with my whole arm. I now have treble hooks perilously close to my face, but I am focused. I slip my hand up under her gill plate (she's vertical in the water now) and hoist her out.
Gorgeous fish! Possibly the largest I've landed this year, it's close. Upon rod measure, she's 43" and change, so right near the largest for 2016. I put her on the fish grips, plop her in the water, and revive her. She's fighting me again in literally seconds. Now, I go about trying to get my camera set up on the rock to take a picture, while trying to also hold onto this 30lb+ wild animal. It's tough and it takes a few tries.
But, I do get one that's ok, and when I go to let her go she splashed me thoroughly and is gone in a flash!
I practically jump to my feet, I've wasted a bunch of time getting those pictures, but maybe there's another out there.
The next fish, on the same plug, would be a 33-34" blue fish, that tail walked and pulled drag and jumped right onto my rock.
After that, maybe 5 minutes pass, and I land a 28-29" bass on the same plug. Then, I'd land 4 or 5 more schoolies in the next thirty minutes, nothing under 24-25". They felt like a waste of time and I was anxious to get them off my line and horsed the crap out of them.
As the light started to grow in the east, I switched from blurple to white darter. Around , I landed a 32" fish that looked tiny after landing the cow. The sun rose, but the fog was thick and it wasn't exactly bright out. A few bait guys showed up around this point.
Same spot as the big girl, dragging the darter through it, boom- another solid hit, and another 33"+ blue fish that was fully convinced it was a tarpon. Released it without the other guys nearby noticing.
Then, I went 30 minutes without a touch. I was dying- I was so tired and hungry and thirsty. I had been up all night again.
But I was determined to stick it out through the switch. The tide was starting to slack, and I knew I only had about 20 minutes left. I could do it.
Since the water wasn't moving at all anymore, I switched to a Mikes Custom Pikie.
The first few casts yielded nothing. But somewhere in the middle, I thought I saw a large shadow behind my plug as I worked it erratically across the surface.
Then, again, I thought I saw a shadow behind it, but then it came back with a weed on it so I figured that was it.
The tide is at the absolute lowest.
Another cast, basically through the same spot, and as it got close, I almost passed out.
That shadow? It was a HUGE striper behind the plug.
I slow it down for a fraction of a second, then faster. Then dig it in, then steady. But she won't go for it.
My heart is POUNDING. In the water this fish looked like a 50lber. I couldn't see her clearly, she'd sorta fade in and out, as the water was semi-stained and she was still pretty far away.
I work it closer and closer. And as it's reaching the critical stage where line angle is about to make it roll out, she does a little surge, and sucks the 8" long, 4oz plug in like it's a foam packing peanut.
She promptly gets both trebles slammed into her face.
Chaos again. She's going nuts on the surface. Then to the bottom- maybe only 3 feet down, and drives her face into the rocks. Later, I would check my leader and it was raw from snap to braid- all 40" of it.
Then right back to the surface- I mean she's literally 20 feet from me, maybe closer!
She takes a short run, but then back to the surface thrashing again.
And like that, it was over. A few hard cranks, and she's right next to me now. She just let up, similar to what happened with my 47.5" fish from last year. I pulled her around the rock and to the back side where I hoisted her up with little trouble.
This fish was even bigger than the last. She was so far beyond my 40" mark on my rod I have to guess a little, but she was pushing past 45". So definitely not 50lbs, and definitely not even 40lbs, but pushing past that "cow" number of 35lbs certainly. She was much more docile, and I was able to handle her more easily. Gorgeous creature. Couldn't imagine killing this apex predator.
I wonder if she had been caught before. The way she acted with being handled and such. I always wonder why some fish are so much more willing to be handled and don't fight as hard, while others are savage beasts. Maybe she was hungry. Maybe sick. I don't know. She showed no signs of injury.
So I've got her on the fish grips and fumbling with my camera.
I look up and the fisherman nearby are like, waving and yelling at me. Great.
The gig is up, and they come down the shore, slowly, towards me.
So now, what can I do? At least they looked somewhat like they knew what they were doing, and this is a tough spot, even if I'd never seen them before.
So I decide to have them snap a picture of me, I call them over, explain the camera- and say nothing else. He takes the picture, says nice fish, I say yeah I guess (but inside I'm beaming).
I've cropped the crap out of the picture to protect the spot. The blurriness was from the guy.
I then kneeled in the water with her, and I think to the horror of these guys, I rocked her back and forth until she kicked away hard, returning to the boulders she had come from.
I fished for twenty more minutes after that, but the tide had turned and was starting to rise now. No hits. I was so hungry and dying for coffee.
Two fish over 43", a 32" a 28", 5 schoolies, and 2 33"+ blues in 2.5hrs? I'll take it.
I'm hopeful the best is yet to come!