A Mind of Fishing

DSC_0214

It’s a daily journey for me that starts with one thought  “where are the fish today”.  It leads me places I only dreamed of and fills me up with knowledge of things I had no idea existed.  This wonderful, beautiful world and life we all walk though with so much going on around us.  I invite you to stop a bit and consider if  and when you leave makes no difference as nature continues to exists on its own terms.

It’s often by accident I am studying one thing with great conviction  that I stumble upon another great discovery  that makes me look at everything differently. My recent reads have been about the New York Bight and the Apex facts and findings, Ben Franklin mapping the Gulf and his cod eating habit’s and lastly Men’s Lives: The Surfmen and Baymen of the South Fork  by Peter Matthiessen .

Some days I have to stop and take it all in.. because we walk on sandy beaches as did people in our past on the same quest but for different reasons.  It leads me to the thoughts of such a vast difference in the way we handle technology and publication now.  People of  past worked so hard to catch fish to provide a meal for their families.  If you think there were not cyclical years please do some reading.  They relied upon  fish to sustain them. And now for the majority it is for internet notoriety or to be best among peers – a different kind of personal thing to feed.  Years from now I often wonder how will this blip in history will tell our generations story… and stories of the simple fishing trips. The kind you keep close to your heart, family and friends that mean the most.

 

baby (2)

 

 

 A Simple Fishing Trip

2016

My morning alarm is set to lull me out of sleep with the voice of Jeremy Wade screaming “Fish On” over and over.  I am ready Mr. Wade.  In the morning shuffle I pick and chose to throw a couple bucktails that have always given me success into the pouch. Feathers all dried I run my finger tips down them to make sure all is intact.  These are my favorites, my go to’s, try as I may with other things I just love fishing bucktails.

bt's

Step outside to see the moon still up and bit of a glimmer of light towards the water.  The night crew will be leaving, I’ll see them packing it in and heading home. Most will have no fish with them. The surf fisherman I know almost never take a fish. It’s often not because they would not like to share a meal of them – it’s because of stocks and also the stigma of someone seeing you take home a legal fish for your family. It’s 2016 and you’re damned if you do or don’t. Greed still runs rampant. But for many people, most of us we are more conservation minded when it comes to this beloved fish – Morone saxatilis.

It is still the most exciting feeling to me to load up the gear and leave knowing what my destination is. A thousand things go through my mind as I am checking off again the –  do I have everything – water and sunblock included.  Upon reaching the destination for the first few minutes I am an observer of the display nature is putting on.  Waders on and my heart starts to pump a little faster those first few steps. Some days I feel like I am almost running when I get on the water although I know I am not.  Just as the sun makes direct contact I am throwing into it with hopes of presenting perfectly to a passer-by in the water. Living so close to this is where I find myself and the world melts away.  For now until this time ends I am myself at the apex of happiness.

So often now when I have a bite I wade into the water to let it go there. Trying to be so careful as not to stress the fish I almost panic if it is not quick enough on my terms.  I am not keeping it, not today.  I get to do this everyday as long as fish are around.  For that I am grateful.  For that I respect this fish. What you do is your own business. I stopped looking. Looking at the same thing over and over of fish held high above heads like trophy’s.  It took me this long to realize that we are different. We fish for different reasons.   Technology pushes hard on ego’s and some look to the path of least resistance.  I needed to quiet my own mind before I got caught up in what the internet deems me a good fishermen and come into my own. When I sopped looking at all those reports online I set myself free to experience this on my terms in this pace in my heart.

Happy for you – happier for me.

DSC_0352

DSC_0332

DSC_0355

The whole time I am walking I watching, learning, filled with wonder.  With miles under my feel having walked I start to head back.

DSC_0313 (2)

sundown4

Usually some kind person will stop me and share their love along my journey of fishing, surfing, the sea… whatever it is that calls our hearts here.

Packing my gear back in the truck with grateful intention I know God willing, I’ll be back again tomorrow.

For  I  bring home with me the greatest gift – a heart filled with so much love for this life and fishing.

nyc

To go fishing is the chance to wash one’s soul with pure air, with the rush of the brook, or with the shimmer of sun on blue water. It brings meekness and inspiration from the decency of nature, charity toward tackle-makers, patience toward fish, a mockery of profits and egos, a quieting of hate, a rejoicing that you do not have to decide a darned thing until next week. And it is discipline in the equality of men – for all men are equal before fish.- Herbert Hoover

 

UNREAL….. Get up at 6am… check radar..

thought i could do it… GOD SENT me a message….one hour later… it is summer again… all I can say is it was ELECTRIC !!!! – Tony Stetzko

It’s funny how connected things are. There are forces we cannot even understand going on at any given moment pushing you along a path that did not make much sense at first. One day it all does and you welcome the arrival of such knowledge.

Life and the journey.

I did not pick surf fishing, it picked me. I was getting pretty good fly-fishing sweet water and thought I could transition that to salt. But no. And it was not for lack of wanting to try. So I’ll take you back to why.   I was late to FB .. reluctantly I joined. Lucky for me I happen to know a couple of people who sent a friend request and I welcomed them from a past fishing message board. And  (Keith and Amy) being the wonderful people they are recommended a bunch of  their friends also. So there I was, new friends. All walks of life friends, and from all over. I did not know most of them. But it was important to me to make my experience on FB a good one so I kept the door to friendship open ever so slightly.

At first I did not talk much about fishing (shocking I know), had some real heavy stuff to get through. But I kept producing  art and taking pictures. On one occasion I posted up a sketch which would mark the beginning of one of the very best friendships with  man I would ever come to know. He commented on the sketch and we talked a lot about art – commercial art, photography, etc… and NJ

 

 

Fast forward and here I am sometime later working on this basic how to for beginners like myself in surf fishing. Reflecting on how I got here.  And it was his push… to get my hands on a surf rod.  Tony Stetzko – a man bigger than life itself. I was already going to the beach everyday exploring every inch of the ocean side, the back, and the bay.  I was taking it all in and slowly letting it heal me. So with his encouragement I gave it a try. With a heavy bait rod and reel in hand off I went. From the first cast I knew this was it.  One on one… I walked the sand and with each step and cast I accepted everything the universe gave me. I did it wrong. Wrong set-up. no belt, no surf bag, little gear, no idea. It rained, the wind was relentless, the sun sometimes painful, I tripped and fell on slipper rocks, walked through mud and sand fleas. Behind the sunglasses I shed a few tears, some-days a lot. But I let go and I forgave…. myself. I also learned to stop giving so much power to fear. The kind of fear that someone else hands you. I let go of so much at that water. And in turn started to believe in myself again,  it’s healed me… that and those striped bass and their journey.

And so my friend and I talked about everything. Sometimes everyday.  We talked about the good and bad,  but a lot about that good feeling…. of being on the beach alone and seeing the sun come up on the water, stars, sunsets, surf, swell, tides…. dolphins in the surf, horseshoe crabs, blue crabs, porgy, blue fish, striped bass. He said he caught a few. How humble right.. because he is a record holder.  He made written stories come alive, gave people enormous credit for just being kind to him, gave life to the crazy forces that align on the beach at night,  there was jaws always in the surf and seals received a whole new zip code.

Tony made people feel special – I am not in one bit unique, there are so many, many friends of his in this world who shared the same kind of friendship with him. And so the talks went on.. and it was never about fishing technique except “keep moving”. It was always conversations about life, families, friends and the way people treat each other.  A real honest to goodness friend who got this passion I have for seeing the good in everything and fishing. No judgement, just genuine and encouraging.

So I was right there in life accepting this friendship. One for years prior I would not have felt worthy to accept from anyone.

When Tony fell sick in November in my heart and I think everyone else too thought, he would get better.  The severity was never as real as in the last couple weeks of just how hard the battle he was still fighting was going on. In light of it he had the capacity within himself to want to let go on his terms. For that we can all be grateful. But the loss is a hard one among all of us he has touched because he sincerely is a good soul.  And what more really is there to life than to live in such light and love and share that with so many people.

What a beautiful legacy.

tony st

(Photo credit – Tony Stetsko in a personal message 2013)

 

I am grateful to have known him.   I sincerely appreciate his good friend Danya’s offer taking the task of being my first call when I get lucky enough to get my first striper from the surf. Although I know Tony will be watching.

This past late spring start and summer went along. It was a slow start, lots of mistakes. But I started paying attention and asking questions. Little by little gaining some confidence to even ask. People like Allen W, John Beers, Keith,  Chris Gately, Nick Luna, Steve Adams, Fran all started saying try this and do that and I was starting to get it. Everyday I went, everyday I tried throwing everything. I started getting bluefish. Ummm that was enough to make me lose my mind knowing what was possibly under them. The miles I put on my feet the last year are immeasurable. But my realization of this community of surf fishermen – (fly people too) is overflowing with gratitude. I posted about writing this how to and I had so many great people respond on all different aspects. I am going to share all of them one by one.

As I put the finishing touches and pictures on the first chapter to the next post with the help of John Basile and Lou Caruso (Plugs and Rods – For Beginners) I stopped first to recognize this force that works without us knowing and the connections. Most of all I really just wanted to say thank you to all the people helping me.  You are all a testament of what good and kind people are. And each and every one of you have been wonderful mentors. And if your name is not on list it is coming… these were the people at the get go.. along the way so many more have offered their knowledge.

A great big Thank You to Tony for being my friend and whatever beautiful beach you are fishing right now I hope your soul is at peace. I am going to miss the talks and stories, the posts,  but most of all,  your enthusiasm for life. What a remarkable gift.

 I leave you with the most valuable lesson I have learned from this …. and this comes from inside of me to you : sometimes we hesitate to invite people into our life because we feel like our space isn’t good enough. Things are a little messy,  our place settings don’t match, or our situation isn’t quite what we want it to be. Don’t let that stop you. Invite people in any way and let the friendship take off like a 50lb pound bass hooked up in the suds during a nor’easter.

Beware: I have found my fire. Surf Fishing 101

20141028_161721~2
Simple definition:
Surf fishing is the sport of catching fish standing on the shoreline or wading in the surf. A general term, surf fishing may or may not include casting a lure or bait, and refers to all types of shore fishing – from sandy and rocky beaches, rock jetties, or even fishing piers.
When I arrived at the Atlantic last spring I immediately knew I would walk the sand everyday possible. The connection to water and fishing wherever I am is a constant. This is where I was supposed to be a ll along. What I did not know is it would also become one of my greatest challenges and in it I found home. My early days were a mix of major mistakes. I resisted asking for help because having fished in most other environments I thought “I could figure this out”. It doesn’t just happen that way.
My first mistake was to walk a bait rod casting out plugs and metal like a maniac. Often walking away with gym arms and a stretch of disappointment.  One day a good friend and accomplished angler said meet at the beach for a bit let me see what you have going on. That time gave me valuable information and a great starting point.  I made it a part of my daily life after that to get to the beach everyday possible and try, walk, move…. put time in – all different times of the day whenever I could. Up until a few weeks ago I was still out there trying to catch some time before the daylight saving sunset and cold.  The first thing was to lighten the gear and learn about metal, plugs, bags, surf, tides etc… It’s a wonderful journey I am on.
It is here I found my place in the world. It’s my beginning and it’s just baby steps. I still boat, fly, kayak, etc fish… but this is where I found out who I am. My one on one. It’s all you baby. Looking back every single time I picked up a rod and fished it brought me to this place. My only regret is not getting into it sooner.
20141227_134525
So let’s consider this the starting point. My how to 101.
There is so much on the web,book,etc.. regarding getting started.  It has been a habit of mine to get in up to my elbows before actually reading some how to. Let’s face it when you just start out you are holding some masterpiece in your hand from a plug builder and a book in the other and the plug is going to win. Gear always wins. Then you get to the beach and that plug is such a masterpiece you’re having second thoughts about even throwing it. Yeah you put it on the mantle and show it off – other surf fishing people admire it. But you know you should be fishing it.
My intention is only to share what I have learned as simple as possible.  I threw the question out to some of the best of the best out there and was overwhelmed by the response of how to’s and tips. So I am going to use the platform of this blog to share them. Each new post introducing an aspect important to the beginner with an interjection of my own experiences and that of others. The people at this a while are some of the most helpful, sharing people I have encountered.
If you feel you have something worthy, insightful and easy to share – reach me through twitter. Most of what I will refer to is for NJ/Atlantic Ocean fishing and the species we often encounter. The #1 being the Striped Bass. Having taken part in past Fall Run and the fever and passion is what dreams are made of.
Step 1 -Starting out keep  your cost within reason but good quality. Promote the gear as you advance and get more confident. Learn to tie a great knot – not a “good” knot a great knot. You’ll thank yourself. The very first thing you’re going to need though is a passion for fishing and a will to put some time in. Don’t listen to those people who talk down about surf fishing… if you like it get out there. Your soul will thank you for it.
Next up – basics to start – rods & what is in your bag.
20141128_134421
 “The heart surrenders everything to the moment. The mind judges and holds back.” -Ram Das

Chasing Striped Bass

128

It’s been a  while and I sincerely apologize. Life has been nothing short of an adventure in fishing and  lessons in marine biology hands on these last months. Started off chasing tuna to slipping into the rhythm of fishing everyday, searching for striped ones.  They still are what gets me to the water daily. The bait fish have been plenty and no shortage of bluefish either. Learning every aspect of the water and what surrounds me I am a student of the sea and sand. Many times I am rewarded with fish I have never seen before.

20140919_173719

If I could list all these wonderful, successful fishermen who have been so kind to teach me all about the craft the list would run off the page. I have a profound respect for people who pay-it-forward in the fishing community. They are a wealth of knowledge. Its been very humbling to be around some of the legends and record holders of the community. But also the guy on the beach who says.. use this today.  Watching them and taking everything they teach and implementing it.  Something just clicks and you find things you learned in the past are void and now you are doing it correctly. It’s often an a-ha moment.  Simple things like leaders, knots, line, bait, moon, tide etc…things become easier and the fish more plentiful. It’s you vs. the fish. It’s the way it has been forever and will always be. Remember that.

109

Days of present are filled with the anticipation of  stripers. The journey continues. Which often leads me to ponder – did you ever stop and think about all the people this fish has a hold on? How many books written?  How far people travel to be romanced by the run? Just how satisfying they are to reel in often let go? Like life taking in and letting go.

009

Everyday is a lesson. I watch the changes of seasons sweep by me along with all the treasures nature offers up. Even on rainy days I wonder what will I learn today there.

060

196

070

20140909_170209

20140922_171235

20141013_161011

050

084

104

061

As I write this it is the wee hours of the morning. The first rays of light are starting to find me and I smile. There are often days I think how blessed I am to have arrived here alive. Life surely has shown me the very worst and best of mankind. The one very valuable lesson I learned is that there are far more good people in the world.  Embrace and surround yourself with those people. People who teach you things, nourish your soul, encourage you and help you on the journey. And be yourself there for others to walk beside them, hold them up and share all the goodness at your fingertips. Just walk outside and let nature take you in. May this Fall find you wrapped in happiness with life and the journey of the run. ♥

If two points are destined to touch, the universe will always find a way to make the connection – even when all hope seems to be lost. Certain ties cannot be broken. They define who we are – and who we can become. Across space, across time, among paths we cannot predict – nature always finds a way.” – Touch
147

Opposing Winds

 “Sometimes it’s the same moments that take your breath away that breathe purpose and love back into your life.”  Steve Maraboli

066

 

187a

197

 

014

023

139

043

056

 

119a

 

003

tunadeathcircle

20140817_184150

 

 

bluefinhead

058a

 

20140817_190207

119a

129a

177a

177

 

032

075

 “My dear,
In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love.
In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile.
In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm.
I realized, through it all, that…
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.

Truly yours,
Albert Camus”

089

 

It seems like the closer I get to stringing a bunch of insanely good moments together the quieter I become. Maybe it’s the peace that rests within after years of living in fear and pain. The next step is a big one and I am not sure how it will be received. I feel like it’s important to pay it forward now …. time. The idea started not long ago and was greatly received by someone who filled their days as a quiet hero to many not only as her profession but way of life.  She believed in me and this idea when I no longer believed in myself. She understood that I had to wait until I got to where I am to do what is next on the journey. She lost her battle with cancer recently quickly… not months, weeks. She left behind a legacy besides being a wonderful wife, mother, daughter. There are people who you encounter that change you, help you, protect you… she truly was a saint among us. Many of us were blessed to call her our friend and she will be greatly missed.

Lots of lessons this past year, not all fishing. Humanity, truth, healing  and compassion. I am the sum of my experiences humbled by the ocean. The vastness of the shores that reach beyond my vision compel me to do something worthy. To live up our potential of why we are all here. To not just exists in the safety of silence but to whisper to others “keep hope alive”.

Fishing didn’t just save me… it sustained me and continues to. This blog helped me to connect with some really brilliant and successful people in the fishing community.  I will take the words and give them a voice.

Next chapter.

 

 

 

Fluke, HS Crabs and Seine

 

seine1

Seine fishing for observation purposes have produced a wonderful variety of fish in abundance.  Silversides, snapper blues, grass shrimp, and more. It’s a good indication of what’s going on in the waters I have been fishing. A healthy environment. From what I have learned the area was hard hit after hurricane sandy so this helps with logging, changes and recovery.  It’s kinda mesmerizing watching the silvers jump out of the water in unison from the little snapper blues. A dance the fish do daily. Bluefish are ferocious fish that corner their prey to shallow water and charge them.

While observing I have had the pleasure to witness a few birds doing their thing on the water.. looking for fish to grab. Black Skimmers a bunch of osprey and least tern. All with fish. The Black Skimmers just glide across the water as graceful food hunters. The tern just make a straight line down into the water. The osprey just take what they want no matter the size of the fish. In my tackle bag goes the fish book and now bird book.

All this going on daily. Early evenings or before the sun comes up being the best observation times.

At the same time on the beach side the surf had been loaded with bunker for days. And the birds worked it, as did I.

134

025

 

After the Arthur passed through I noticed so many small horseshoe crabs all over. At first thinking they did not make it as so many of the fiddlers were broken up. Went right to the source and asked a Marine Biologist friend and learned more than expected about them.  A small blurb and a link for more info:

The horseshoe crab must molt (shed its chitinous exoskeleton) to grow. Molting occurs several times during the first two to three years. As the horseshoe crab grows larger, the time between molts increases. Horseshoe crabs will molt 16 to 17 times over a period of nine to 11 years before they are fully-grown and sexually mature (Shuster, 1950). It should be noted that the often-cited age of sexual maturity is based on a series of molted shells from a single captive specimen. Females reach maturity one year later than males and, consequently, experience one additional molt (Shuster, 1955).

Once sexual maturity is reached, horseshoe crabs no longer molt (or molt rarely). It is estimated that their lifespan beyond this point can be up to eight years. Once they stop molting, the horseshoe crabs provide an ideal surface to which epifaunal slipper shells (Crepidula fornicata) can attach themselves. By determining the age of these univalves, the age of the horseshoe crab can also be established. Therefore, the lifespan of horseshoe crabs may be 17 to 19 years in the northern part of their range, accepting the estimate of 9 to 11 years to reach sexual maturity (Shuster, 1950).

Like many animals, horseshoe crabs exhibit sexual dimorphism. Males are generally smaller than females at maturity, which is most likely a result of the females undergoing one more molt than males. The mean prosomal widths of the adult males is only 75 to 79 percent of that of the adult females (Shuster, 1982). In addition, males have specialized clasper claws to aid them in attaching to females during egg fertilization.

http://www.horseshoecrab.org/info/lifecycle.html

008

026

036

Mud snails

051

Fluke fishing has been pretty fantastic. Days of the smallest on the boat being 24″ and throwing back 18″ and 19″ who can complain. The sweet taste of summer flounder is a warm memory of being a kid and it rushes back each and every summer.

IMG_8903~3 (2)

Movies on the beach was a blast….

20140706_200415

20140706_221454

I am not sure if  water heals what is broken inside of you or if it’s on your own/time this takes place. When I look back and read some of the things I have written I realize how much time passes. I realized too that I am glad I did not delete the entry on pain. It helped me to open up and talk about it… and to the people who asked me to keep it up and not delete it – thank you.

The time spent fly fishing alone taught me so much about myself and how to be strong. And now the surf fishing is again challenging me in so many positive ways. I am sincerely grateful for this simple, quiet life I have now.  I know some of the most amazing, positive people life has to offer  from all over the world  and each day they inspire me to  want to be a better soul. The journey continues….♥

001

117

 

 

When someone cries because you said something nice to them,

they’re someone who you need to protect because they haven’t seen enough kindness in the world.

Immerse and Observe

20140608_115941~2 (1)

6/2014

Don’t sit and wait. Get out there, feel life. Touch the sun, and immerse in the sea.” -Rumi

 

012

 

032

 

 

 

055

058

018

 

009

 

006

 

013

087

 

 

 

eyes wide open, listening,  catching, healing

Oceans – Puscifer

Weary traveler, calloused and sore
Time and gravity followed you here
Rest, my brother, and tell me
All about the ocean
Spoils and troubles, they burden you’ve bore
Pay them no mind, they matter no more
Leave them behind and show me
All about the ocean

Look in your eyes
I’ve never seen the ocean
Not like this one

Deep in your eyes
I’ve never seen the ocean