I'm done. I didn't fish last weekend, the weekend before I only fished 1 night, and I didn't fish the week of Thanksgiving. The weekend before last that I did land a single schoolie at night in RI- 5hr suffer fest for a single death rat (~14-16"). And I went to Montauk the weekend before that, and ended up coming home early because I got sick. Pictures in this post are from that trip. I didn't have a hit or see anyone catch a fish for the three days that I was there. It was a miserable trip honestly. $500 for nothing (add up the room, ferry, food, gas, gear, etc.).
I was supposed to head to NJ last weekend but that's didn't happen either. So that's it. I think there's a chance that good fishing could have been had right up until last week, but like everyone else, I gave up "too early".
Next season I guess.
It was harder this year than ever before to stop. I always get more than a little depressed at the end of the season. However, in 2014 and 2015...I was also a little happy it was over. I was so burnt out and had fished hard- too hard maybe. But, specifically in 2015, I caught a good number of fish and I was very happy- it wasn't perfect and I missed many opportunities, but I was as close to content as I'd ever been. I had discovered a few excellent patterns and was "onto something".
But this year? The thought of it being over makes my stomach churn. Because this season, frankly, sucked. Big time. The whole season from April through November was a giant "fuck you". I fished more and harder than any season before. I truly sacrificed for this passion of mine- stupidly maybe at times. For what? A lot less fish, not much information.
Ok, yes, I did have more big fish, and yes, I now have a vague idea of a pattern at a good spot that gave up more than a few 20lbers+. But way less fish overall, and WAY WAY more skunk or single fish nights. And given where I am in my fishing career, I expect more. I want more.
The only jewels in the whole season were a night in May, a night in October, and my trip to Cuttyhunk- and even that was mired by tragedy (stories starting in January).
I think there are a few reasons for the suck that was this season- some not my fault, others my fault. Here are my thoughts on why the season was what it was, and some "Monday morning quarterbacking", with season statistics to boot. Click to keep reading!
1) A warm April followed by weeks of cold May "paused" the migration. The small early season fish invaded Rhode Island with a vengeance in April. It looked like it might be a banner season. I didn't get to take advantage of that, but I hammered dinks (fish 8-16") in NC in late April- unheard of! Everything looked good. And then in early May everything changed, it got cold, and I think it really crushed the migration. It seemed like the mass of fish that usually come through, didn't. Or at least that's what I experience. It seemed like maybe fish just stayed off shore. Or something! They were out on the outer cape, but never came in shore except later in the spring/early summer. In April I landed 50-70 tiny bass all on my fly rod, it was a blast. But none from New England. I started earlier in New England then I have before, and dropped two schoolies before May 1.
2) Fish didn't go through the canal in the spring. This is just a fact- ask any canal rat. Yes, there were a few nights I guess, but it was nothing like normal. That's what I hear anyways, I don't fish it. And since they didn't go through the canal, they didn't invade the bay the way I usually see them on the south shore. And, since I depend on fish invading the area from Boston to the Canal, when they didn't show...do the math...I was SOL. Because it was cold, and fish were so scarce on south shore, my patterns didn't work. The moons and tides also didn't really cooperate. Into mid-May, I was fish less!
3) I focused on big fish, and paid the price in low numbers and skunk nights. I was in denial in May through July. I thought I could do it all. Catch biggies, and then on off nights hammer schoolies. Nope. I just didn't have time or effort to do both. In June, I really had to face this fact. And since I'm new to strictly cow hunting...again, an already crappy season added to big fish hunting resulted in a lack o fish for Jerry. I took that wretched trip to Long Island sick as a dog in June too and that killed a good chunk of my fish time. And I felt burnt out by mid-June, and that was not normal. While May was bad, June was TRULY TERRIBLE. It was the WORST month I've ever had EVER EVERY- besides Novembers. 10 fish. TEN FISH. One definitive keeper, one maybe. I won't say anything else more than that.
5) The fall run came early and I wasn't ready. I'll skip past August, but it wasn't memorable- I had 60ish fish, lots of small fish on the fly rod. Fished less this August than normal. When life hands you lemonade...tiny fish...make lemonade...break out the fly rod. But then September happened. YES! The month that made me remember why I do this crazy thing. I hammered fish. In two weeks, I had 140-150 fish, maybe a little more. I ended up losing track because I fished every night for 14 days in a row. In that 140+ fish, was 40-50 keepers, and a bunch that were close! A 43" trophy on a big metal lip, a 40"er on the 3.5oz gibbs, two 37's, a few 35's, and one night of about twenty fish between 27 and 32". Cuttyhunk gave me several blitzes, and I hammered an area of current that I haven't taken advantage of much in past, and had a couple nights of 20-30 schoolies. And I caught several blues in the 33-40" range. That one blue I caught was my best fish of the season by far, a 40" blue!?!?! I wouldn't have believed it had I not been there. So, as it turns out, this was the fall run I think! We had so much bad weather in September and October, so much N, NE wind of 25mph+ the later fall run was either shut down or unfishable. And oh did I try! So I think I thought this was just finally some good fall fishing, not migration. But it was. And I didn't realize and take even more advantage. Although not sure what else I really could have done since I was fishing 8hrs a day 14 days in a row + the cuttyhunk trip. September yielded 175+ fish. I had some grand top water evenings as well. Missed a ton of schoolies that way.
6) By the time all the bad weather went through in October, all the fish were on Long Island. The guys on Long Island slayed fish this year on the east end. It looked truly incredible. However, I sucked it up in MA. I thought I had things figured out, but nope, again I was wrong. October started out strong, and I took advantage of strong winds dying down and fishing the after affects. Boy, that one night...that one night on October 2nd. The night we all dream of. Few schoolies at one spot, pushed out by idiots, moved to my other good spot. Third cast 43" cow. I then landed a decent teen (lbs) fish, a big blue, a few big schoolies (26-28"). And finally rounded out the night with a beast 45"+ fish. I can't think about what it could have been had I been there the entire tide. Gives me butterflies. But, I think this was the END of the migration this year. Last year into November I had fish on south shore, this year...Nada! So October, started off very strong- 6 keepers, few giant blues again, 25-30 fish total in the first couple weeks. But then, it just dried up. They kept catching in RI and NY well into November, but I stayed in MA and failed. Crazy winds this month. Wild weather all over the map. Warm water, but it meant nothing. Didn't see the bait I saw in 2015.
So, that's my analysis. I had ~350 fish this year. That's about 100 fish less than last year. And I had A LOT more death rats. Take those out- and I probably only had about 160-180 fish. I did have 16 fish over 20lbs, and 4 fish over 40". I had an almost complete lack of fish in that 25-28" range that I had oodles of last year. No fucking idea why.
I am already swapping in and out lures, cleaning gear, and my fishing room is all sparkly already. I got a good idea of the moons for 2017, and I think they look REALLY good this year. So, let us hope we get a nice mild May, and some moderate onshore winds.
My lure analysis is coming later this month. I have a video I'll post up this weekend about lure modification. Real stories coming up in January. I'll do a few videos from the show in RI.
Let's all hold our breath and hope the fish have lots of babies this spring, and hit the shore hard in 2017.