Two Weeks of Roller Coaster Fishing
The last two weeks have been very frustrating. The persistent problem of non-consistency continues to haunt me- but there's been some tragedy too. Lot's of lost fish. Still, the worst thing I'm facing is the same I've been facing for 3 seasons now- the fish are here one day, and gone the next, and I have to really move around a lot to find them- and spend a lot of time fishing fora limited number of shots. BUT, but, I shouldn't complain, because last week was definitely decent. Read on for details!
I'm in an absolute time warp as I've been fishing the zombie hours for the last 10 days, often stretching them into sun-up, and sleeping most of the day. So when I started to write this I realized I was going to have to go back to my logs to remember anything about what the hell has happened over the last 12 days since I blogged. Before I look at those details, I will give my overall feelings without the log in front of me.
First, the full moon SUCKED. I mean, really bad. I started to get really worried, and had a long string of nights of little or no fish, and nothing over schoolie size. I am not alone, I know others who had a similar experience (or in some cases worse and in some cases slightly better). But it was frustrating because I was finding bait and good water to fish and just nothing in it. Granted, there were a few nights that were REALLY bright and REALLY calm and that is a recipe for disaster. Also, I made some tough choices that ultimately were the wrong ones. You win, you lose. That's how it goes in this. Finally, there is absolutely no doubt, we are at least two weeks behind. I'll get to that more later in this post. But, after a lot of work, I do feel like I have my finger on the pulse. I've lost the tide at a couple of spots but a couple of others come online and while I traditionally don't do so great at one of them at this moon phase, I have a feeling it might be different this year for a few reasons, but namely BECAUSE we're so far behind. Only time will tell, but I think this coming week could be really good.
OK so here's the details- well, at least more details. This will be stream of consciousness while looking at my log.
After yet another skunk (not terribly unexpected) at one of my reliable big fish spots, I had one night where I really wanted to fish a stretch of shore after Memorial day but it was covered with kids having fires and drinking, and I know that is a recipe for attracting police attention. Since I didn't want to get wrapped up in that, I bailed and went elsewhere. There is a spot I desperately want to learn nearby and I just can't figure it out. I went there and found glassy water and tiny fishing popping spearing. I ignored them. I had 0 hits and fished for a good 3 hours before returning to the original spot and finding it even worse than the spot I had left- the water was like gin and the moon had gotten super bright. I noted in my log I'm only fishing big plugs through at least June. I didn't do that the next night, but stuck to that the rest of the week and all of this past week.
As noted the next night I decided I just needed to bend the rod and went to a spot where I have done well with mostly schoolies but also fish in the keeper to teen bass category. It was a gamble, and I mostly lost only landing 1/2 dozen fish on sluggos/swimmers and nothing over keeper size. Still, it was a nice night and I have no regrets. Very easy fishing, not a lot of sneaking or work involved.
The next couple nights I had 0-2 fish each night and all very small. One spot looked perfect- PERFECT- but I had 0 hits. And it was freezing! In fact, I'm still (as of writing this) wearing my wool under my wetsuit and wearing my winter hat. I usually like that- make the season last longer into summer- but I'm sick of it now. I'm sick of my hand freezing. One night in particular it was only in the high 40s and very windy and I was dying! I don't think this helped the fishing either.
Oh, but then things really started to change. I decided I needed a big change up and gambled on a newer spot. I took a couple nights off to be with my wife and try and rest up, and then hit it hard again.
The first night I drove a long ways and used my bike to access some coast line that is far from any parking. I found myself in boulders after 30 minutes of biking and walking, and it was just about low tide. I fished along a mile stretch of shore stopping where ever I felt it looked fishy or had some limited intel from scouting and fishing it previously. I didn't have a hit for almost 3 hours so I returned to the original spot. It looked good- the water was up and while it was calm there was a slight wave action. I got out to a good rock- no swimming involved- and started casting. I threw everything. But nothing. Then I clipped on a Savage Gear Freestyler and first cast had a hit. Felt solid!
Next cast I was working the plug slow but erratic when it was crushed by a nice fish. It took me into the rocks, but I got it out. Another solid run, but I held her. But then, I was trying to bring her in through some boulders and she took off again and broke me off instantly! PING. Gone.
I was moderately upset but was happy to have found fish. I re-tied and literally the next cast I had another nice fish on- this one felt even better. This fish had to be over 30lbs, while the last one was questionable.
But then, tragedy struck, and I pulled the hook about 3/4 back to my perch! I was horsing it hard so it wouldn't break me off and I think I just popped the hook? I'm not sure, and I'll never know but I was pretty mad.
Later I actually hung up on rock and lost ANOTHER freestyler- my last one that was my preferred gold/brown color. I was bumming hard after that. That night (morning) as I lay in bed before I turned off my phone I did a google search for the plug and found that there were almost none in stock anywhere. I went to the Savage Gear site and it looks like they're going to discontinue them. So I found some chartruese ones on Dicks of all places and bought 6 of them. They were discounted and I figured I could just paint them.
The next night I went back to this same spot- with my spool of 50lb braid, not 30lb, and a longer 80lb leader. I had no big fish, but had fish spread throughout the night up to 12lbs. Just before it started to get light out things really went off with schoolies everywhere and I had about 10 on sluggos and the damn SP.
Then, tragedy struck AGAIN. I had a nice fish take my sluggo, and I had my drag too tight for the thin wire lunker city swim bait hook, and the fish took off and simply bent the hook straight. Well not straight but enough to get off. Was that fish 30 pounds? No, definitely not. Was it 20? Sure could have been. Still I went home happy to have have at least had some action...but wondering if I had missed my opportunity at big fish until the following week.
The next night, I apparently went insane. I didn't go back to that spot, and instead took my first trip north of Boston. In retrospect, it was stupid. HOWEVER, I knew it would be my final shot at seeing this spot before July and I want to fish it hard in July, so I felt like I needed to at least see it once before then.
So I drove super far, walked super far, and froze to death. But all was not lost. I had 8 fish that night to 10ish pounds, pretty much what I expected. What I didn't expect was the fish I LOST- YET AGAIN- that was at least a teener and maybe even bigger. That fish came just as light was starting to enter the horizon. I was mad, would have loved to had a nice teen or 20lb fish from this spot this early in the season.
And that was the moment I started to get down on myself and really frustrated. Why the fuck was I losing so many fish? For fuck sake, I tried all kinds of drag combos, different plugs, and was being hyper-conscious of hook set (as always) and yet this week I had lost at least 3 and maybe 4 fish over 20lbs...and had yet to land one.
So the next night, I went back to the spot I had been early in the week and was determined to land whatever took my plug. When I got there it was going off gang busters. Fish breaking everywhere but they sounded small. I completely ignored them for almost 2 hours. Finally I gave in and tied on a teaser...and was irritated to see I had it on 30lb test leader. No way was that holding up if I hooked anything decent.
First cast, something hit the teaser and broke it off almost immediately! I was floored. But I knew better.
I re-tied with 80lb, but it took a while. By the time I was done, the fishing popping bait had completely stopped. OF COURSE they had.
I casted for 10 minutes and then had a solid hit and landed a 12lb fish on a jetty swimmer, not the teaser. Ok, so at least it's not just dinks?
But I was hungry and thirsty and irritated and didn't trust my teaser rig. So I went back to the rock near shore I had my waterbottle on (and THANK GOD a granola bar) and took a break and re-tied.
5 minutes later I was back out on the rock and feeling better. Just be calm I thought to myself.
First cast with my custom painted free styler and I had a subtle hit, and set the hook into a big fish. I fought it for at least a minute. And then I LOST IT.
And I lost my mind.
I almost threw my rod and I was cursing myself up and down and actually yelled out loud which I NEVER do. Especially when it's super quiet like it was that night. Stupid, but I did it.
It was a nice fish. How do I know?
The very next cast I hooked another and after a careful fight finally landed one of these tricky fish- and she was 24lbs.
I took a couple pictures but that took a few minutes (of course, keeping her in the water the whole time). This was deep, deep in the night. And I was burning out from a string of so many nights. I was cold but tried to focus.
About 15 minutes later I had another subtle hit. I set the hook but didn't feel much at first. Then the fish was thrashing on the surface, then she was taking line- a lot of line. I had my drag what I consider very loose, although it was apparently enough. I worked her back in but could feel rocks on my line and loosened up on her and let her go. And go she did.
I got her back close, carefully, again, and I could feel my line rubbing something the entire time. Then she really went again and my line was free, but I didn't dare put the brakes on her, so she just kept going and going. Something felt weird, I wasn't sure what was going on. I was trying to be cautious. I wasn't sure how big she was but she had to be bigger than the 25 I just landed.
When I got her in again- this is probably my longest fight ever with a striped bass, we're pushing 5 minutes now- I saw tons of kelp and sea weed on my line. THAT'S what I was feeling. OK, go time then, and I started really pumping her in fast. I got her to my rock and she went psycho. This was one jacked up fish!
I wasn't sure if she was going to be 30 but she was definitely bigger than the 24 from 10 minutes ago. I got the plug out of her nose- she was hooked on the rear hook!- and revived her before taking some pictures. She was over 30 but I couldn't see the 32 so I just called her 30. I submitted her to the SRB tournament. I didn't realize there was already a 30lber in the tourney or maybe I would have weighed her again, but I hate hanging those big fish from the boga, it can't be good for them.
I got some great pictures I'll save for publication and then let her go. I didn't have any other big fish that night, just some schoolies on popper when the sun came up. Damn if I didn't wish I had landed that first fish, even though I should have been very happy it felt a little bitter.
Oh. All these fish have sea lice. Can you believe that? It's like it's middle of May. We're definitely far behind. So if you're fishing but it hasn't been so good, stay at it. They are coming. I have more data to support that, but can't share, so suffice to say- get out there.
Finally I went back again one more night and knew before I even got there I was probably not going to do great. I was going to lose the tide I thought, and it wasn't as good a wind/weather condition.
And I was right. I did lose (UGH!!!) a fish that was probably in the teens on a redfin, and then landed a 10lber on a freestyler, then had one more fish of unknown size on the freestyler for a hot second. But all was quiet, and it didn't feel right, and I was exhausted and needed to just go home and sleep.
So that's where I stand. I'm inching closer to 100 fish on the season and now have a couple 30lbers under my belt but am still apprehensive about how things are going. It's super inconsistent and if I didn't have 5+ days a week to fish, I'm not sure how I'd be doing. I do feel like I'm on it now, but like I mentioned I've lost the tide at two spots and the others that are coming on board have been fickle. I am optimistic, you have to be, but we'll see.