November: Lots of Fish; None of them Big. Last trip of the season, December 1.
Let's wrap up the season, finally.
Going into the first few days of November, I knocked it cleanly out of the park. Yes, I didn't catch the fish I was looking for. I didn't land a single fish over 20lbs the entire month of November. But, for me, November is a real toss up month where I fish. Last year it was an absolute bust. The year before, it was not bad. Year before that, bust. You get the picture.
The month started very strong, with an all nighter during the first week. I fished sandy beach, and heavy current on the same night. I started fishing around 2am and fished through 9am. I was fortunate enough to get into a good body of fish almost from the first cast in the heavy current. I had about a dozen fish on darters mostly, but bucktails worked too, to over 15 pounds. Almost all were keeper size, and most were in the sweet spot of 27-30". I had a billion hits too from smaller fish. I actually found it a bit surprising- it was better than I had hoped this late in the season and given how bad the season had been.
Knowing I'd have to take a significant break after this because we were closing on the house and moving out, I decided at this point to fish until I couldn't stand up anymore.
The largest fish came shortly before it got light. Once it got light, and the tide started to change, I switched to top water and had a ton of schoolies. Actually, I could throw basically whatever I wanted and had fish every cast for a few hours. However, I was joined about an hour after it got light by two fisherman that were crowding in on my location. Since I had been beating up on these small 20-24" fish for well over 90 minutes, and these guys were a bit too close for comfort, I decided to head to a sandy beach nearby and do some fly fishing where I had been hammering fish on sand eels. I found many willing schoolies, and after loosing a few I got things straightened out and landed nearly 10 on my fly rod. I lost a real nice schoolie in the wash- most of the other fish were 20" or slightly bigger. Just barely worth the effort. But the one I lost in the was was probably 6 or 7 pounds- 25" anyways. I was using a tiny size 4 sand eel and the hook wasn't big enough to stick that fish I think. No biggee.
Boy was it a hard drive home that morning. I was exhausted and pretty sad about my forced hiatus I was going to have to do for a week, possibly more. I knew in November every day is precious- and to have found such a solid body of fish and being forced to leave it...well that about sums up 2017 doesn't it? The season of almost...
So I took a week off, not by choice, as I packed and unpacked 60 ft of moving truck (3 trips in a 20fter), one set all by myself. Moving sucks so much, and the pain was intensified by the inability to fish, and a slight twang of regret in having to sell our first house...
But I was back at it before the second week of November passed. The next time out, I was skunked in my big fish spot. I decided that was it. No more trips there. Moving to our new place it was now almost 90 minutes to drive. I was done this year.
The next trip was a few days later, but was a relative success. The sand eels were saving my late season. I had over 10 fish, lost what felt like a teen fish, and landed one well over keeper size. Pictured in this blog. It was an easy night. Not a lot of work to catch these fish on redfins. I felt no pressure to stick it out, and it was warm. Made me sad that the end of the season was coming...
The very next night could have been the same. But it was ruined by a couple of asshats with super bright lights and eels. I had hits every cast for the first 20 minutes and landed about a 1/2 dozen schoolies to almost keeper size on SS needle fish. Then these jerks showed up and were shinning their light directly on me. I mean, standing staring. I yelled not very nice things at them. Then they started whipping eels directly in front of me. No more than 50 feet away. I get it. It's free country. But come one. After they showed up, I had 0 hits! And I saw them only catch a single fish which looked to be about 25". I gave up after a couple hours. I had a splitting headache for some reason, so it was not a hard decision.
The next night I went back to find four to five foot swells and dirty water. Bigger than I had thought! And I really started to feel anxiety about the end of the season coming to an end. This is the kind of thing that scatters sand eels. I had 0 hits. At least I was alone! I quit early and was in bed long before midnight. It was 35 degrees at home. I started to really think about when I'd hang it up...
Just as I feared, when I went back two nights later, I found a totally different body of fish. And no sand eels! I found spearing/silversides or something similar, but saw no sand eels. And now the fish were 12-18". I caught a single one that was 24-25", and everything else was under 20". All fish wanted the redgill teaser, except the "big" one which took a bomber in chicken. Yes, I caught a dozen, but I don't find these fish entertaining. If anything I feel guilty for hooking them. I left early again.
I decided, apprehensively, that I should head to RI. I know this means the end. I do it every season: I wait too long and miss the bite there. I do it out of desperation. I was now into the third week, Thanksgiving week, and I wasn't surprised that my trip to 4 locations along So.Co. lead to only 1 fish, and the trip 5 days later to only 6 very small fish. However, I did scout a new spot. A popular spot, but one I've never visited. That's where I had all the fish on outgoing tide. My hands were COLD this night. Crystal clear skies and water. Fish only wanted the mag darter. Again, I left them biting because I feel guilty catching those little babies.
I'll catch up with them in 5 or 6 years hopefully.
This left me with only 1 more trip on the season. December 1st. I was surprised to find myself fishing alongside several anglers at each spot. At this point, I wasn't even a little worried about it. If anything it was a good sign. It meant there was still hope. And at one breachway I fished, a guy was slinging eels on a big conventional rod and reel- this was telling. He looked serious and knew what he was doing, and it made me focus. We fished in complete darkness and silence only 10 feet apart. He never turned on his light, and I didn't either. The only time we spoke was to curse out another angler with a strong light who came up on me. It was funny really. I felt like I had a fishing buddy, despite him being a complete stranger. If everyone who came up on me fished like this, I would welcome a dozen guys into my spots. It was very civilized, very serious.
But, no matter what it was, we both didn't catch anything. I waited until he left though, as I wanted to see if had any success, in case I could learn anything. This meant I stayed a solid hour longer than I had planned. It also meant I didn't have time to hit as many spots.
So I decided to end it on a beach in RI where I ended it in 2013, 2014, and 2015. A beach I started my season on in 2014 and 2015. A place I love.
I had 1 hit. It kept me there for almost an hour tossing redfins, mag darters, and bombers. I reflected a lot on the season. How much had happened in my life. How I started the season earning 6 figures, and now found myself unemployed. How I had started the season expecting greatness. I had THREE new spots, one of them so exclusive it was essentially mine. I had a lot of confidence- this season was the first I feel I had a lot of the pieces put together. I worked extremely hard. I made two amazing trips. And yet, I had less than 20 fish over 20 pounds. I didn't catch more than 3 the entire summer. I didn't have a fish over 30 pounds all season. Then there was the one I lost in October. Was that the one? I had never felt anything like it before, not even the fish from July of 2016, or the 45lber in 2015. Or the mystery fish from 2012 in NC on a piece of chunk mullet.
I will tell you friends, as I hung my hook on my rod, and sat down on the beach for a quiet moment of contemplation, I was fearful. I fear the future. The fishery is in trouble. I see it. I feel it. I've been told it. The evidence is overwhelming. Last year, I declared the season a failure by June, but it sort of bounced back in September and October, only to fall apart again. I would say 2016 was at least twice as good a season as 2017 for me.
Yes, you may have had a good season- I know a lot of you fish the canal. But I'm telling you. There are lean days ahead.
Hopefully I'm wrong.
Monthly review will come next week. Then I'll do my annual plug review- but this year I might do video.
I'm also working on the movie, but holy fuck I'm over my head. It's very time consuming. It may not happen. We'll see.
Happy New Year.