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By Stuart D. Adams

Wallingford, CT

A Season Worth of Striper Fishing

Page 2

July 12 (Sun.)

Early morning trip with Pen, myself, and first time boater Zack, our dog. Zack is a Brittany, and being a bird dog, wanted to go after every Gull and Tern we saw. The lobster pot buoys puzzled him, thinking they might be alive by the way they moved. Even after he got to see one up close, feel, and smell it, he still wanted to go get them. Pen had gotten snagged on a line so we picked up the buoy to follow the rope to where we could retrieve her hook. During the slack tide, he watched in astonishment at the jellyfish as they pulsed their way through the water. What eyes he has. He really enjoyed the trip. Pen and I had a good day ourselves. We started off by trying to snag Bunker for the first hour and only would up getting one. We took it and our eels and ran to Crane Reef. It took only about 30 to 45 seconds for a Striper to find that Bunker. A nice 37-inch fish that we promptly released, having fresh fish for eating still on hand at home. A few drifts later Pen caught a 34-inch Striper, which we also returned to the briny. As the tide went completely slack and the action slowed, we headed to Southwest to give it a try, and caught nothing. Back down to Crane Reef for the start of the new tide and I picked up a 38-inch fishright away. After a number of unsuccessful drifts, with the wind and tide now fighting each other, we decided to give Fluke a try. We saw a few caught at Duck Island but could not duplicate the effort ourselves. One last try for Stripers. We ran straight out to Southwest Reef where I had a nice hit that produced nothing but a bare hook. A while later I hooked into a good fish that once I worked it to the surface, turned out to be a large Bluefish. Pen tried valiantly to gaff the fish, but never having used a gaff, wound up hitting the line and the fish broke off. Oh well. At that point we decided to call it a day, as we had been on the water for seven hours already, and it was now noon. We headed in to nudge our way through the crowd at the ramp. Now I remember why I like evenings! The presence of Bunker in the morning does provide a great opportunity, but I think day trips are better left to weekdays to avoid the traffic. If we had managed to get more live Bunker; we could have had an outstanding trip. Some other time I hope. All in all, it was still a good trip.

July 19 (Sun.)

This was the day I've been looking for all year. Best to date by far, and one which will be tough to top. It had been four weeks since I was last able to get together with Al for a trip. I had a commitment for Friday night so fishing was out. I called Al hoping to make a Saturday evening trip instead, but he already had a commitment for that evening. Either I found someone else for a Saturday trip, which wouldn't have been overly difficult, or I went out Sunday early with Al. Although I knew I would have to face a slew of idiots at the ramp when returning to the Clinton Town Dock near mid day on Sunday, but I really wanted to get Al back out. I told him I wanted to leave my house at 4:00 A.M. and he replied that he was so desperate to get back out, that time was no problem. Some guys are always a few minutes late to my house, but never Al, so I felt comfortable that we could get a good jump on the day. We were on. Again, the plan of attack was to get some live bait in Clinton Harbor early, and then head out to clobber the fish. Well, . . . "The best laid plans." Syndrome took hold instead. We tried both snagging and herring rig to try to catch some sort of baitfish, but failed miserably. Whatever the bait fish in the harbor were, and there were plenty. We couldn't get any. After an hour of this, I decided once again to give up and get fishing with the eels we had brought. I thought that since my buddy Tom had been quite successful lately at Crane's reef that we would start there. However, as we passed "Secret Spot," I decided to go with a spot at which I have been rather consistently successful lately, even though Tom has had far better days than I so far this year. Well, every year actually. But, I went with my gut. Things went so well, I almost looked liked I knew what I was doing. Lucky, is the honest truth though. So lucky in fact that we ended up catching 12 keepers and one short over the course of the morning. All at this spot, and it's not that big. Al and I had doubles on the line four times during the trip, and we boated three of them. I reminded him that this is where we caught the only triple ever to cross my gunwales. It was a big fish day for me, with three fish of 40 inches or better.Al caught a bunch in the lower thirties, but did get one that reached 38 inches. Still, a five-keeper day was by far his personal best. It must be near mine as far as quantity. I'll have to check last year's notes. We actually started fishing at about 6:00 A.M., and we had gone through about a dozen and a half eels by 11 A.M.. Al dragged a plastic eel across the area for another half hour, and although he detected a couple hits, had no hookups. I should have told him to use an O'Shaughnessy style hook rather than a circle hook. The fish tend to drop a plastic bait quickly upon realizing that it isn't reel, so you have to set the hook quickly. That is something that will not work with the circles. Al tried to let them hook themselves, as they almost always do with circle hooks, but they spit the bait, we assume. By 8:00 A.M., the tide had nearly stopped, and the action did as well. I decided to make another attempt at finding a little piece of structure I had seen on the chart, but hadn't been able to locate. It took to effort, and some luck, but we found it. It helped that there was no tide working against us as we tried to stay over it to get a good mark. After getting a mark, and writing it down on my note pad, I decided to run to Six-Mile Reef and get a mark on the can there. Many good fishing reports come from that reef and I wanted to get a general mark for later exploratory ventures. We fished one likely looking spot for a short while but we moved only about 100 feet in 15 minutes. We decided to head to Crane Reef, which is where we were going to start fishing first and never got there. Off we went. By the time we got there, the tide was just starting to pick up. It seemed ideal. After three or four drifts on the inner bump, and three accurate drifts on the deeper one, all without a bite, we figured we might as well not waste any more time away from "Secret Spot," so we moved again. Good thing. Our first drift there produced one of our double hookups. What a day for this spot. We continued to catch fish until the eels were gone. As we hoisted one of our doubles over the gunwales, two passing boats spotted us lifting two big Stripers in rapid succession, and throw them right back. They spun right around and went up current. One of the boats was a fresh water Bass boat, and the other looked like one of those bigger toys that the jet ski manufacturers build. We watched as they played with their motor and slowly rigged some sort of bait. I refused to pull back up and drift again so they could get a good fix on exactly where I was fishing. We slid a half-mile South and fished and watched from there. We did not get a bite in two or three drifts, and I guess neither did they as we saw them leave our spot. Back we went, and caught more fish. This was the kind of day you hope for every time you go fishing. If it come together like this once or twice a season, you're happy. I hope to see another day like this again soon, but you just never know!


July 23 (Thurs.)

Another amazing trip. Took the day off work to fish with Tom (the Bass Assassin) Samal. I finally got the opportunity to take him out in my boat, and relieve him of some of the worries and chores associated with being captain. He did however assign himself on duty, in that he brought with him his gill net and the associated Menhaden license. We cruised upand down Clinton Harbor looking for bait, but saw none breaking the surface. We decided to give it a try none the less, in an area where we saw two other boats working nets, and the depth sounder indicated some sort of suspended fish. It took us just under an hour, but we did manage to net about a dozen or so Bunker. Not bad considering the apparent scarcity on the surface. By 6:00 A.M. we headed out to fish. We went directly to "Secret Spot," which has been good to both of us lately. As I directed the boat toward one of the four marks I have saved on the G.P.S. for that area, I missed my intended target by several yards to the North. The bottom terrain looked very interesting, so I continued in a direction that would let us drift back over it. The stopper had fallen out of the bait well and the water was gone, so the Bunker had died, but they still couldn't be any fresher. We each hooked one up and dropped down. After about two minutes we were both disappointed in that we did not get a bite in the first 30 seconds or so, as we usually do with live Bunker. All of a sudden, we both hooked up. Starting the day with double was a nice feeling. Tom's fish was 41 inches while mine was only 34. Back up we moved to repeat the drift again. As we neared the same spot where the double occurred, I had something grab the bait and then let go just as quickly. Then again, they were gone. On again, gone again! I figured it must have been a small Striper or a Blue that had stolen part or all of my bait. I reeled up quickly to check the bait, and hopefully get back down while we were still over good looking bottom. Something grabbed the bait on the way up, and let go again! I was at a total loss for an explanation of what was going on, until my bait reached the surface. There, right before my eyes, was a school of Stripers, bumping into each other and fighting over the bait. They ran is size from roughly 34 inches to well over 40! They quickly turned and headed for the deep. The two biggest were closest to the surface battling for position, with the lesser fish in submission just below. I hollered to Tom, "Look at that! Look at that!" at least twice, and he got to see the two big fish before they dove. He said that he had witnessed a similar event only one time before. It was a first for me, and a sight I shall never forget. It wasn't but a few seconds after that Tom hooked up with his second fish of the day, and it was only our second drift. I dropped back down quickly, but Tom suddenly realized that his fish had taken his line around a Lobster pot buoy line. I reeled up, started the motor, and tried to move the boat around the line to help him to, hopefully, land the fish. I did this instinctively, and without being asked, and Tom responded by saying jokingly, "Oh, you're like a brother to me!" As we approached the pot, he yelled "It's swimming free," so I stopped the motor and grabbed the net. A beautiful 42 inch fish. By the time the madness had ended, including freeing the hook and sinker form the net, measuring, then releasing the fish, we couldn't remember precisely where we were fishing. In all the mayhem, I had not marked this new spot. We tried keying off our original target, but couldn't quite find the exact spot. Tom suggested we move over about 50 yards to where he had been successful just the night before. We caught more fish there until the Bunker ran out. The bunker had produced four fish for Tom, and three for me. We were now convinced that the Bunker did not have to be alive, just very fresh to be effective. We both ended up losing our very lastBunker by having our lines break while we were fighting fish. Me to a lobster pot rope and Tom due to damaged line from his earlier encounter with a pot. Oh well! During peak tide we headed to Cornfield Point, where we boated one little schoolie Striper, then we went to Crane Reef. No hits, so we decide to get back to "Secret Spot " for the end of the tide. Good move, as we caught three more Stripers using eels. The action slowed at about 11:00 A.M. as the tide went slack, so we called it an early day, an took our tales home. Tom ended the day after having caught six keepers to my four. His measured 41", 42", 38", 33", 31", & 36". I caught three fish that were all 34" and the days big fish that was 44", and 30 lbs. We had at least four or five double hookups that day. Definitely a day to remember. July 25 (Sat.) I took my son Adam and his buddy Rich (no, not Buddy Rich) out for an evening on the water. It was Rich's first time Striper fishing, and only Adam's second time out this season. Not a spectacular night, but enough action to keep the boy's excited. The seas were calm, and it was a beautiful evening to be on the water. We of course headed right to "Secret Spot," after the success Tom and I had experienced just two days before. It was tough to even consider going anyplace else. We used our usual bait, eels. Rich started us off by catching the first fish, a 32-inch Striper that was his first ever. I automatically through it back after measuring it. Then Adam caught one, then I. Then it dawned on me! I should have asked Rich if he wanted to bring fish home to eat. He said yes, so I said the next fish caught by anyone would go in the cooler for him. Fittingly, he caught the next fish. A 31 inch Striper. Not too shabby for his first trip. Adam managed one more, and I got two, before we called it a night. Adam's fish were 29 " & 33 ". Rich's were 32" & 31". Mine were 30", 31", 7 31". No monsters on this day, but fun none the less.

August 2 (Sun.)

My folks had finally arrived home from their 6-week jaunt around the Northwest corner of the country. Timing and weather prevented them from getting out on the new boat prior to their leaving on their vacation. We headed out for a late afternoon trip, hoping to miss the weekend traffic, and have the seas lay down for us. Well, we missed the traffic. The seas averaged only about one foot, but the occasional two footers made it a bit more bumpy that I would have like for them. We just proceeded at a more leisurely pace, and they had fun. We were right about slack tide, so I took my time, knowing that fishing wouldn't be productive until the tide started moving again. We got to "Secret Spot" just as the tide went slack. I hesitated to even put a line in the water as another boat was carefully watching us, moving very slowly past the area. I certainly did not want to let him see a fish caught here. The spot is too small. Best to try to keep it secretive as long as possible. The wind started to move us a little during slack, so I put on an eel and dropped it down. Just then, the other boat of fishermen came back by. I ignored them as my wife and myfolks waved. We certainly didn't look like serious fishermen in their eyes, so they kept going. Not long after they had gotten out of sight, I hooked the first fish. I promptly laded a beautiful 38 inch Striper that weighed 21 lbs.-10 oz. My folks were amazed, and amused, as our dog Zack got all excited and was all over the fish, licking furiously. They couldn't stop laughing! A couple more bites on that drift, then I moved slightly to one of my other nearby marks. As we drifted back over the spot, and the arrival alarm on the G.P.S. sounded, I had a bite. I immediately suggested that it felt like a big fish, and acted like one, in that it hit as I was dropping the bait to sound the bottom. Sure enough, it turned out to be my third largest of the year. A 43 inch fish that weighed 29 lbs.-6 oz. Again, my folks were amazed and amused. They had a blast. Pen had decided not to fish, so she stood by with the dog and netted the fish. My folks enjoyed the clear view of Long Island, and the sun setting over the horizon. We got to see the fire red reflection of the setting sun in the windows of buildings on Long Island. I ended up boating one more short Striper, and a little Blue. We had used all our fish up at a picnic Saturday, so we kept the first Striper, and the Blue. We took out time heading back to Clinton harbor, and my folks found it very interesting how we navigated the channel in the darkness. A great day on the water with family. It was nice to have been fortunate enough that in an hour and a half of fishing, I came off looking like a pro for my Mom and Dad. Good day!

August 7 (Fri.)

I finally made good on a promise to take Robert Williams out on the boat and show him how I fish for Stripers. He nearly didn't make it due to automotive difficulties, by I assured him that if he could still somehow get to the ramp by 8:00 P.M., that Al and I would come back in and pick him up. After talking from a cell phone to a cell phone for a couple hours, he finally made it. Coming back in at 8:00 P.M. was not really detrimental to the fishing since high tide wasn't till 11 P.M.. We introduced ourselves, having previously only spoken via the internet, e-mail, and a couple of times on the phone. Al and I tried to get his terminal tackle set up for our style of fishing as we worked our way out through the channel. We headed straight for Southwest Reef for our first stop. The tide was really ripping due to the full moon being only one day away. Not even a bite though. We were all hoping that the full moon would make for a better than average outing, but it was not to be. From there we ran in to Duck Island where we fished some fine looking structure, but again without a hit. As the tide finally began to slow, we ran over to "Secret Spot." I not only wanted to save this spot for the most likely time of good fishing, but also to be there well after dark to prevent my passenger Robert from getting any land bearings that might allow him to find the area during daylight, should he ever happen to bring his boat up here to fish these waters off Clinton and Westbrook. It sounds selfish, but you have to be to preserve such small areas which could quickly be destroyed, should the masses find out where they are. As luck would have it, the fish finally turned on, but almost asquickly as it began, the fun was over. They developed lock jaw before the tide ever came to a stop. I thought the full moon was supposed to be one of the best times to fish, but it hasn't proven to be so for me yet. Al and I each caught one small keeper, both of which were 32 inches. Fortunately, Robert had a good trip. Thank goodness. He was beginning to wonder whether or not my fish stories were really "Fish Stories." First he caught a 34-inch fish. Then he caught his biggest Striper ever. A 41 inch fish that weighed 28 pounds. Nice and fat, and he was thrilled. He capped the evening off by putting a 31-~ inch fish in the boat. Robert was happy to have had his best Striper fishing trip ever, while Al and I considered it mediocre, to only have five keepers cross our gunwales.

August 21 (Fri.)

Headed out with Al again. We finally came to understand that what we were seeing on the depth sounder in one certain area of the channel, were in fact, Hickory Shad. My friend Tom told me he had seen people catching loads of them a few days earlier. I armed myself with a fresh water spinning rod and a herring rig, while Al tipped his outfit with a Shad dart. In just under an hour we put 13 Shad in the live well for bait. We encountered a very fast tide, and less than aggressive Stripers. We ended up with more pots and tangles than anything else. The fast tide would spin the Shad around the line on the way to the bottom, creating a tangled mess. Without much success on the Shad, we switched back to eels as the tide eventually slowed at about 9 P.M.. Al just had one of those nights. Even after switching back to eels, he got one eel knot after another, and caught nothing but shorts the entire night. The only keeper he had on came during a double, and by the time I freed my fish from the net, and readied to net his fish, the hook pulled loose. That seldom happens with circle hooks, but like I said, he was having one of those nights. Al's string of nearly two full seasons, consisting of eleven trips of having boated a keeper Striper every trip, came to an end. The first and only time he was ever skunked. I boated six Stripers, but all small, of which three were keepers. They measured mere 29, 29, and 34 inches. Where did all the quality fish go? I guess it's that time of the season. Last year I went through a similar stretch with a lot of small fish as well. Hopefully the bigger fish will start showing back up soon.

August 23 (Sun.)

Pen and I (and Zack) headed out early in the morning, an caught only four Shad before heading out to fish. Headed straight to Secret Spot since the tide had just begun moving, making for ideal conditions. With the seas flat, the sun just coming up, and the tide just starting back in, things went well for a change. Pen decided to just catch what UV rays made it through the hazy overcast sky, and left the fishing to me alone. It didn't take long before it seemed like I had a hit or a fish almost every drift. The Shad proved a very productive bait, and were gone in no time at all. Then the eels continued to do the job. We spentan hour or so seeking Porgies down at Cranes in vain during peak tide. Then we ran back to "S.S." as it slowed a little again. I continued right where I left off, with loads of action . Every little bump we hit produced fish. There was one lobster pot buoy in particular, that almost every time we got within 10 yards of it, I caught a fish. Pen and I got so we could predict almost within seconds, when I would get a bite, by our position relative to that buoy. Finally some better quality fish this trip as well. No real monsters, but good enough to make it a great day. I boated five keeper Stripers, two shorts, lost a couple little Blues along side the boat, and landed an eight-pound Blue. I almost forgot. One of the more interesting events of the day. The very first fish of the day, taken on the first drift with a live Shad, pulled the hook right along side the boat, after a long battle. It was a good sized fish that was probably just under 40 inches. Tired from the battle, it stayed at the surface, even though it was now free. I hollered at Pen, who had the net ready, "Get it, get it!", as it drifted closer to the boat. As she went to slip the net under the fish, she was not quite close enough, and bumped it on the head. That was all it took for that fish to realize it should be elsewhere, and down it shot. So strongly in fact, that it was hard to believe that only seconds before it looked so lethargic, we wondered if it would make it. No problem. We released all the Stripers without trouble, and kept just the one Blue. The five keepers measured 39", 39", 38", 35", & 35". All quality fish. We were done fishing by noon, after a very successful morning on the Sound. What a difference a couple days makes. It seems that evening trips have been disappointing lately, so I think I'll concentrate on getting out mornings instead as long as they continue to produce.

August 30 (Sun.)

Early morning with just me and the dog. We arrived at the ramp at 4:50 A.M.. I backed a little too far into the water and damn near launched the boat by itself. I was ready to run around the truck and down the dock to jump in when it realized it had stopped, and I could simply walk the trailer and climb in. Phew! I wanted to be in deep enough to drive it off easily, but not THAT easily! So, the feet got a little wet. Stuff happens. Minor inconvenience. Got everything settled and Zack and I headed out into the darkness. It was nearly 45 minutes before it became light enough to catch and Shad. They started to bite when they could finally see the bait, about a half hour before sunrise, as the sky began to lighten. I had only gotten four, when hordes of fishermen came rushing into the river, trying to catch bait for the big Bluefish tournament that was taking place this weekend. The traffic put and an abrupt end to the Shad fishing, so I headed out to fish. Very slow tide this week. I have got to learn to understand the apogee and perigee tides. So different. Mediocre success. Lots of bites, but probably Blues and short Stripers again. I did manage one 34-inch Striper though. I also caught two nice sized Blues. I hesitated to weigh them since I wasn't registered for the tournament, and would hate to think I might have a fish that was in contention to place. I heard a lot of people on the VHF radio telling tales of woe, and slow fishing. I stayed through the entire tide. I evenran a few miles to two different spots before heading back to old reliable "Secret Spot," where although I had a few more bites, no fish. Heard someone saying they were catching big Blues in mid Sound. Another gent said he caught a 19-pound Blue off Duck Island, followed by an immediate wisecrack over the radio of, "You better thaw it out before you weigh it in!" I chuckled to myself at the quick wit. Eventually, with boredom setting in and nothing but small bites, so I weighed the Blues. One was 11# -12 oz., and the other was 12# - 11 oz. Good fish, but probably not money fish. I called it a day as the tide slowed just before 11 A.M.. Hopefully good weather will continue. Next weekend is Labor Day weekend, so there will be plenty of traffic again. I think early morning will be the best bet. Next week there will be more pleasure boaters, who don't show up until a little later in the morning. Not like the hordes of boats all at the crack of dawn today. Hopefully

Sept. 13 (Sun.)

Hit the water at 6:00 A.M. with Al and Tom Bishop on his first time aboard. We spent the first hour chasing Hickory Shad and only got two. We finally came to the realization that the eels would have to do, and headed out to fish. Al lost his Shad to a bite on the first drift at Secret Spot, then I pulled the same trick on the next drift. On the third drift we had three eels in the water, and had a triple hookup. Tom and I each landed ours, and Al had his fish break off. His line looked as though it had been gnawed through by a Blue, even though Tom and I both landed Stripers. Fishing slowed immediately, and we took off to try to find more productive waters. No luck. After trying three separate spots with the same results, nothing, so we headed back to Secret Spot for the tide shift as it slowed down. The fishing really turned on, but we were out of luck. Or more correctly, out of bait. Al and Tom each lost an eel to a fish as I landed a Striper. With the final eel, I boated two more Stripers before the eel finally came off the hook. We watched as a fellow we know was catching two and three at a time in a boat right next to us. Our downfall had been the Blues, even though we boated four or five nice Blues, we saw them take a number of both hooks and eels that were intended for Stripers. Final tally for the day: Tom had 1 Striper that measured 32 inches, and a 35-inch Blue along with a couple smaller Blues; Myself, four Stripers of 30, 40 , 34, and 37 inches; Al, No Stripers, but a couple Blues.

Sept. 19 (Sat.)

Although this was intended as a Porgie trip with Pen and our dog Zack, it ended with an event notable enough to be included here. We used both clams and sandworms as bait, and chummed heavily while anchored at Crane Reef. We moved around the reef looking for fish several times with little success. Finally we found fish in deeper water off the leading edge of the reef and they started to bite. I had only one, and Pen had just caught two bigger Porgies when the Blues showed on the surface. Notonly did the Porgies vanish, but we never even had another Cunner take a worm, and they always bite. Well, until the Bluefish come around, as we found out. I put on a popper and caught three Blues amidst the flurry. They were pushing a small bait fish about two to three inches long, completely out of the water. The Blues themselves were also going completely airborne, putting on quite a show. Even the dog was awed watching the Blues jump completely out of the water. It was fun to watch. As usual, I find it impossible to spend a day on the water without at least trying briefly for Stripers. So, we stopped briefly at Secret Spot on the way in. Four drifts, two on one bump and two on another, and I boated two Stripers. One fish was 37 inches and the other was 39 inches.

Not bad for 20 minutes of fishing. A great way to top off the evening.

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