More Analysis (No pictures)

I wrote this up for a forum I belong to, but it's too much good information not to share.  It's mostly the same as the last post, but more boiled down with a bit more informatin "by the numbers".  I don't have time to edit it or add in photos, but I thought I'd put it here- even if I'm the only one that reads it, it'll be good to have.  I'm not sure why my numbers of trips came out slightly different, but I'm not going back through and counting again.  I did this before I did the 5000 word write up.

What do we mean when we say "worst year"? It's so relative to everyone- depending on how many days a year you fish, how "dedicated" or "serious" you are about it, and how long you've been doing it.

2017 I have concluded was my worst year where I wasn’t in the “googan” category- my worst year since I’ve known what I was doing, and wasn’t cutting my teeth.

I just wrote up my "year in review" for my blog, and wanted to go back to the idea of a "worst year" for a moment, to give some context.

Since I break this down by month, I figured it'd be a good post for here. I am not nearly as detailed because I don't think you guys want to read my 5500 words on the year. But I have provided data for each month with just a little context.

An introduction of sorts, even though I’ve been on here for well over a year now. I am plug and fly only, wetsuit fisherman, who runs around MA for the most part, mostly Cape Cod Bay, The South Cape, and Buzzards Bay, but I fish the entire coast from NH to CT. I really only care about fish over 15lbs. I used to really only care about fish over 20lbs, but things are changing. I hunt trophy fish, and fish alone. I do not fish the canal- very important point this season.

Let's start with trips. I did 120 separate trips, 109 at night, visiting single locations 142 times. I can't tabulate numbers, but it certainly was over 500hrs, and likely well over 600. I put 18k miles on my car.

Sometimes I jump around, but mostly I tend to pick a tide and have a plan, and attack it for 3-8 hours, or roughly a tide. That’s clear from these numbers. It’s also obvious I don’t fish during the day. I had a very severe lull in July and August due to me losing my job and the lead up to that. Even despite that, I would not have had more than 10 more trips those two months because I had family obligations in August and July, and I was so discouraged by the season and disheartened I don’t think I would have fished much more than that. However, November I would have had at least 7 more if I hadn’t been in the midst of trying to move. It killed more than a week, and more likely 10-12 more trips. So, if you want to go one more step, I was about 20-25 trips off an “ideal” year.

As far as monthly break down is concerned-

Trips per month
April- 2, May- 20, June- 21, July- 8, August- 5, September- 24, October- 29, November- 10, December 1

Now let’s talk numbers of fish. 

I only caught 8 blue fish and 1 porgy (on a giant needle fish ha!), so I will not analyze them. I will say though, that 3 of the blues were over 16lbs, with my 2nd best ever by weight at almost 19lbs.

I caught 470 stripers in 2017. All released. I don't record weights of anything under 10lbs, and generally don’t weigh anything that looks under 15lbs, but I do have marks on my rod that I can record length very easily. I then extrapolate for weights, based on charts, and err on the side of “light” as I have found the “average” weights are generally not “average” for the fish I catch. Anyways, in 2017 I caught 636lbs of fish over 10lbs. I figure that's roughly 40-50 fish over 10lbs, which for me also usually corresponds to fish over 30-31”. I could get the exact number through analysis but I'm too lazy. That's an average weight between 12.5 and 16lbs in fish over 10lbs that I caught, depending on how many I caught over 10lbs. I think that is very accurate. I had more teen fish this year than in the past several, and it seemed I had “a lot” of fish 12-15lbs.

If you look at these numbers, that means 400 of my fish did not reach 10lbs. I likely had a bunch of keepers that were slightly smaller than 10lbs, so even if you say I had 30 of those, that means I had roughly 400 schoolies. I don’t have the data, but I would guess that 1/2 of those were what I consider “waste of time” fish- fish too small to be fun unless on the fly rod. Fish in the 12-24” size. I don’t look for them, but a fish of 25-28” is a fine consolation prize on a night when you can’t catch decent fish. Especially over the last couple years.

However, 20”ers, for me, are not fun. Even when scaling down. Unless I’m using the fly rod, then I’m ok catching a half dozen to a dozen, but even after a while those get old. I had several nights I could have added another 100 fish to my tally, maybe even 300, but I just moved on. I found huge schools of blitzing dinks. I would catch a couple just to see if you could get them to hit, and then leave them alone or film them for a while. The only exception was one night on the outer cape where I had driven so far and walked so far and decided I’d just embrace it. I had 50 fish that night.

Which brings me to my next point- I had poor consistency, especially in May, June, July and August. September and October were a bit better. A huge majority of my fish came from isolated nights- I had nights of 15, 19, 21, 37, 40, & 50. That’s almost 40% of my fish in 6 trips. So 40% of my fish came in 5% of my trips. THAT’S the first reason the season felt terrible (I’ll get to the next in a second). Why it felt like a failure. I couldn’t get into a groove- where I’d go out and have 10 fish several nights in a row like in the past. Places I could fall back on while I searched out other ones. I’d often only have 1, 2, or 3 fish a trip. Or skunk. If you take all my numbers, divide by trips, it’s an average of 4 fish per trip. But if you take out those 6 trips, now it’s 2.5 fish per trip. Before I break down by month, I want to specifically point out May. Usually May is my largest numbers, or September, and it is traditionally the month I catch my largest or runner up fish (September and October being the other 2). May this year was HORRIBLE. HEART breakingly bad for me. I wanted to specifically point that out. July and June have been bad for me the last 3 seasons, worse than I would expect, but May has been generally at least interesting. Not this year. 

Let’s break it down per month.

April- 3 fish, 1.5 fish/trip. May- 20 fish, 1 fish/trip. June- 10 fish, 0.4 fish/trip (WOOF). July- 22 fish, 2.75 fish/trip. August- 13 fish, 2.6 fish. September- 109 fish, 4.7 fish/trip. October- 197 fish, 8.7 fish/trip. November- 63, 6.3 fish/trip. December- 0 fish

I think it’s clear to anyone then that the first part of the year- traditionally my best time- was a HUGE bust. It’s the first time in 3 seasons I haven’t caught a fish over 25lbs in June, and my worst June by the numbers ever. I will admit I REALLY focused on catching only something over 30-40lbs in June, but regardless, to not get a consolation 20lber is insane! Insane!

Which brings me to my final and most disturbing point. In 2017, I also had less fish over 20lbs than ever before- a lot less. In fact, it’s pitiful. Horrific. Embarrassing, if I didn’t know everyone else was also suffering. I had 3, maybe 4! A 20lb, a 22lb, a “28lb” (I couldn’t get a good weight on a rock in the water) and another that I didn’t weigh that could have been over. The “28” came in May, the 20 in September, the 22 in September, and the unweighed in October. To be fair, I lost 6 fish that were all 20 or better- one of which I firmly believe would have bested my PB (48”, unweighed). I record these numbers as well because I think it’s important. This was also my worst year for losing big fish, ever. The reason why still eludes me, but I won’t dwell on it here. 

Regardless, this is the second, and more important, reason that 2017 was my worst year. I worked harder, fished more, and focused on big fish- and found none. I think my lack of large fish is a little compounded by the fact that I fish areas adjacent to the canal here in MA (within say, ~30 miles) and I think that most of my big fish were sucked into the vortex that was the mackerel blitzes of the Canal that came in July and stayed until the end of September. It pulled them away. This is conjecture, but it’s logical. THAT BEING SAID, the primary reason I believe is that there are just a disgustingly small number of large fish. May proves this to me.

Final notes. I know of some massive fish caught in a place I generally spend a good chunk of my season (say, 20 trips or more). They were there for a couple weeks. But this year I didn’t go there at all in the spring and summer because I was working on two new spots I had never fished before. This lead to a decrease in my numbers, and the bad luck of not getting to even have a crack at those big fish- and not hearing about them until it was over.

Secondly, a large chunk of my numbers, and the vast majority of the teen bass, came from my trips to “bass hotspots”. My day-to-day locations, especially in the spring, were extremely frustrating for the most part. I had only 4 nights I really considered “good” on my home turf, and only 1 “great”. Everything else was ok to poor. If I didn’t have the money or time to travel, I would be writing up an even sadder post.

So what was good? November. November for me is a "bonus" month. Sometimes it's terrible- like last year- and sometimes it's ok- like the year before. But it's rarely good for me up here. I am not sure, but I think this might have been my "best" November. I found a consistent bite that was easy. Had I known what I know now, I think I could have had another 30-40 fish, and I definitely would have had more keepers to fish in the 15lb class. Maybe they'll be there next year. Maybe not. That's about the only positive I can come up with. I had a lot of fun, would do all of it all over again (almost all of it anyways), but I also had a lot of disheartening nights and days.

So that’s just some of my thoughts on the season. I may reply with more information about bait and what I did to catch the few fish I did, but I think this is a long enough post as it is. Ask questions if you want.