It’s amazing the amount of time you’ll put into pursuing a fish, and not just on the water, in your thoughts. Prep time for one trip alone, completing every task to be sure you are well prepared. For a long time (years) one fish has had a hold on me: stripers. Funny how you can boat a variety of species and it just does not satisfy that pull.
About 4 years ago I started reading about stripers. After I had read every known book about fishing the waters off Jersey. Immediately my fascination become somewhat of an obsession, my family had only ever fished for flounder or crabbed. Anything I could get get my hands to read I did. I found myself thinking about them more then anything else and going to great lengths to read reports. I’ll admit it became some what inappropriate because it was the only thing I wanted to talk about and why, didn’t anyone else feel this way? I kept thinking if I could just find a way to follow them up and down the coast my life would be complete.
But not so fast because, they alewded me. To date I kissed but one and sent him on his way (11/2007). It is my Birthday wish every year now. I just want to be striper fishing. While I welled up reeling that fish my excitement was not shared by everyone on the boat. HUH? It was then I realised… not everyone feels the love and respect for their (a stripers) journey that I do. Or I guess politely put…addiction.
Recently I set out for my 2nd striper trip in the past 6 months.
The first one I set out with somewhat good expectations during the downward plunge of temperatures. The weekend before I had been tog fishing, or should I say tog parking. Spent a good deal of the day just trying to set up. Togging is ok, it’s what caught my eye that had my heart pumping.
Birds, and lot’s of them working it. A bubbling blitz in the water. I stared at it in the distance like a launch of a space shuttle. In awe, as I have never seen something so quick to get your adrenaline rushing. But it was not to be and had to be put away in that place that keeps your pursuit strong. Something that looks close on the water is really not, until it’s at the side of the boat. We did manage to get a few tog that day and even after a rough ride in the visual was not leaving anyone. Next weekend we’d be back.
All week long I did nothing but immerse myself in reports, and there were lots of them. You could read the excitement each angler was experiencing, it was on. Christmas was fast approaching, I had just moved from Florida and was totally unorganized, freezing, dealing with the rest of my chaotic life. It didn’t matter, I was going to be back on the water. Everything else would be fine right?
On that day they crew was changed up and there were more, we all wanted in on the bite. As I approached the dock the salt life had slipped into a deep winter sleep. Ice, and freezing cold embraced us as we walked the dock to our destination. I did not feel a bit of chill even on my exposed face, my adrenaline was working overtime. While most people would rather stay in bed on a cold day in December, it’s one of my favorite times to fish. Fleet has thinned out and the ocean seems even bigger. The big ones (stripers) are making their way south and I was hoping I would get to bring one to the side of the boat.
With everyone kinda close together we took off out of the inlet in a CC, no curtain. It can be a wee bit cold, but makes you feel alive (and some people numb). A few other boats joined in the line heading out flying as if the speed would somehow warm you. Communication was exchanged among the small fleet. Everyone in pursuit of working birds. I was sure we could find them, after all the blitz was going strong the whole week. And we looked, and looked, and looked. We spent hours out there, as did everyone else all with the same word, nothing. The temps had dropped even lower just one day earlier and obviously it was just enough to get them moving faster. Faster south of us that is. To say I was heartbroken was an understatement. BUT I also understand it’s a part of the allure of the fish.
Breaking the Inlet I knew it would my last chance for quite a few months. I was happy to be out on the water and tried to reconcile myself with that. But I knew when I was alone with myself and would lie in bed at night the thoughts would creep into my head. And so it started that very night,thinking and trying to tell myself… spring run is really not that far off. UGH!
Now I am back at it again… pick up the clam bellies, early departure-on the water by 6:30am. Upon arrival at the dock little is going on. It’s going to be a long day, we pack the boat appropriately. It’s to the back bay (one of my favorite places) we head. At this time of the year things are really starting to come alive, water is clean. Few are also heading out. I kept thinking about a recent drum trip and how many dogfish and skates seemed to be other only thing I could land. It was me I was sure “cause the fishing mojo was failing me”. So we set up to drift, and we drift… nothing. After about an hour the Capt. says time to move and set up for flounder. Huh? Yeah.. there is no bite so we are switching to flounder. Great, I knew that but was hoping to keep trying for a bit anyway. seeing the pattern yet?
It’s early in the flounder season. I am making sure every damn skate in the ocean is getting a nice balance of mackerel strip in it’s diet. I am getting so good at it that BAM, something different is pulling at me and think wooooo hooo. So I am getting exciting thinking maybe just maybe a striper took it and, well, …. NO… not today, but on the end was a beautiful 19″ keeper flounder.
For the rest of the day I was satisfied because flounder fishing makes me feel like a kid again. There were more flounder, a few crabs, and of course… skates. It was a 12 hour day drifting the bay with a quick ride out front. At the end of the day, as I leaned over the boat looking into the bay water, Led Zeppelin music filling my ears I thought…
Hey, hey what can I do….
I have to wait until fall… yeah, there will be tuna trips, mahi, and flounder in the deep but… I have to wait until fall….and I will… but maybe just maybe I’ll get another chance before then…
The journey of a striper, can sometimes be our own.