By Stuart D. Adams
A Season Worth of Striper Fishing
Page 3Sept. 20 (Sun.)
I took Tom Bishop and his wife Patty out for a day of Striper Fishing. It was Patty's first time. Pen had intended to go, but passed at the last second. We skipped the attempt at live bait and headed straight for Secret Spot, knowing that Tom Samal and Co. would already be working the area. We arrived to find Tom had just started and was experiencing moderate success. I put my guests to work and tried to fish, but their success kept me playing mate instead of fishing. Patty landed the first fish of the day almost immediately. A beautiful first Striper ever that measured 35 inches and turned out to be tagged as well. We later found out it was tagged in Delaware in 1993 at 25 inches. Interesting. Then Tom boated the next fish. A monster 42 inch Striper that weighed 27 pounds, and was his biggest to date by far. He wore his smile the rest of the day, and probably well into the work week. He deserved to be proud. Then they each took turns landing both Blues and Stripers. We had several double hook ups, but I can't recall the individual outcome of each. After only 45 minutes or so, Patty remarked that they could only keep one more Striper before they had their limit of four for the day, and hoped not to catch it right away because she wanted to stay out longer. After another three or four drifts without a bite she was calling the fish to bite, wondering aloud why they weren't. Tom and I had a chuckle as she realized her contradiction. Tom Samal had to point out again and again, each time our boats passed, that while my guests were doing well, the captain still had not yet boated a fish. As if that wasn't a big enough dig, he put a "HUGE" 45 inch Striper into the boat that was estimated, though unconfirmed, to weigh approximately 40 pounds. Not long after that the fishing slowed, and Tom Samal had to get home early, so he said goodbye and headed in. We ran around to a couple other spots briefly, then returned to our starting point for the slower tide. Patty landed her second keeper Striper, and finally it was my turn. I ran off a quick string of four keeper Stripers in a very short period. We called it a day with a cooler full of fish. Patty ended up with two Stripers of 35 & 40 inches. Tom had three of 42, 32, & 28 inches. I finished with four of 37, 35, 37 & 38 inches. Tom and Patty both landed Blues but Ilost count of how many, but I believe Tom's biggest Blue was about 12+ pounds. Tom and Patty went home thinking that they had found a new sport, and running the possibility of a boat purchase in their not too distant future through their minds. I hope they take their time, choose wisely and prudently, and find a good used boat for their first attempt at boating. Once you've owned one for a few seasons, you develop a better sense for your usage habits, and what features you like and or dislike, before enduring the expense of new. I ran a boat for many years, then spent about six months in research before I bought my new boat. Nothing is perfect, so you have to decide where you are willing to compromise, and which features are most important to your particular needs and style. I wish them the best.
Sept. 26 (Sat.)
Weather reports forced a last minute decision to fish on Saturday afternoon, rather than Sunday this week. It looked like our best shot at decent weather. It took a few hours to track down my fishing partner Al, but with some help, I found him. He had made a commitment to spend the evening with another friend for dinner, and didn't want to back of of his commitment, but he said he would call and get a feel for the situation . About a half hour later, Al called and said that not only he, but our long time friend Jim Miller had gotten into the good graces of his wife, and would be joining us as well. Jim is an extremely accomplished and successful fresh water Bass fisherman. I knew his excellent touch would make for a seamless transition to the salt, with just a few just a brief description of the technique, and a few tips. Well the weather was neither great nor poor. The fishing fell into a similar category this day as well. I fared the most poorly, with not a single keeper Striper landed. Jim did well for his first trip. He boated a 33 inch Striper, and a couple nice Blues as a bonus. Al had far and away the better day, as he not only caught a few Blues himself, but caught keeper Stripers of 42, 37, and 34 inches. We had to work hard for the fish, with the wind direction giving us less than accurate drifts. The fish were spread out over the course of the afternoon, with no particular hot spell to speak of. None the less, we had an enjoyable trip. We are all looking forward to getting this threesome together again some time.
Oct. 4 (Sun.)
Took Pen out for what will probably be her last trip of the season. It's getting a bit chilly out there now, and she hates the cold. Our aim this day was Porgies, and we headed straight to Crane Reef. As we passed "Secret Spot," I saw Dave G. fishing for Stripers. I inquired as to his success and he told me that he and his party had caught a few Blues, but not a single Striper. He said that Tom Samal was also on the water, and experiencing similar woes. I caught up with Tom just outside Crane's, and got the same story first hand. Penny and I then headed in to anchor up.No sooner did I drop our chum pot filled with clam chum, immediately followed by our baited lines, that we started catching fish. We fish this exact spot successfully two weeks earlier with a tally of 22 keeper Porgies, and it looked even more promising today. Pen did a number on me, as she out fished me by about two to one. We never went more than a few minutes when she wasn't fighting another fish. The breeze did make for a chilly day, but since she was doing so well, we hung in there. We called it a day as the fishing slowed a bit, and counted 33 Porgies once we got home. On the way back in, I of course had to drop a line briefly for Stripers, even though the word from both Dave and Tom via the radio, was that they both ended the day without a single Striper between the two boats. Not a good sign. I made only four or five half hearted drifts, and gave it up myself. There will be other days, though this season is quickly winding down. Not much time left now. I'll try to stretch the season as long as the fish stay, and weather permits.
Oct. 16 (Fri.)
Finally got the opportunity to fish with my Striper fishing mentor Tom Samal once again. We both left work at mid day and met at my house with a 1:30 P.M. departure time planned. Preparations came off without a hitch, and we left on time. We were on the water in Clinton harbor by 2:30. The first matter at hand was to try to get live bait. Even though we had plenty of eels on board, we could not forget the phenomenal success we had experienced last year at this time using fresh Bunker. I had brought my new and as of yet untried cast net on board hoping to get the opportunity to see if the back yard throwing practice would pay off. The wind, however, was much too strong to try to throw it, so it stay in the bucket. Tom had brought his gill net with us too, so we set it up in an area out of the main channel, and in a spot that had provided him with bait in the past. While we waited for fish to swim into the net, we threw Bunker hooks hoping to snag a few. Both methods produce bait, so we headed out to fish with about a dozen and a half fresh Bunker, and one or two Hickory Shad. The fishing was extremely disappointing. Especially when we failed to catch any fish on the "Striper candy," as we refer to the Bunker. We tried all of our favorite spots with no success. Tom finally switched over to an eel, and eventually landed a keeper fish at Secret Spot, that measured 35 inches. Numerous drifts later he boated a 28-inch fish. Eventually the sun hit the horizon and our hopes arose again. Once again we were let down. We persisted a while longer and finally, once the daylight had completely faded, I had a short run on success. I had three drifts in a row that I had bites, and boated fish on the first two. The first fish measured 34 inches and the second was a hefty 39 ½ inch fish. The next several drifts passed by without so much as another bite, so we called it a day, and headed in.
Sept. 18 (Sun.)
Al and I hit the water early in the morning and worked for bait. I could only manage to snag a couple of Bunker, but Al caught close to adozen or so Hickory Shad on his Shad dart. Another disappointing trip. The sea conditions were horrendous. Though the forecast was for seas of one to 2 feet, with winds of 10 to 15 knots, the seas were actually two to 4 feet, with a few really big waves mixed in. Al actually began getting sea sick. Lots of Bluefish bites, but no Striper on the fresh bait. This is highly unusual. Again, we worked numerous areas, but all for naught. Finally the seas laid right down to almost flat, and the wind subsided. During that break, and even after switching over to eels, all I could boat was one 30" fish. One for the tally sheet, but nothing to boast about. Al caught none. About an hour after the time the weather gave us a break, the wind picked right back up. We both knew that we didn't want to be out any longer in the kind of seas that we went through this morning. Disgusted and disappointed, we left the water by mid day.
Sept. 25 (Sun.)
Again Al and I hit the water early and tried for bait. Finally, the wind was light enough to throw my cast net. I let Al maneuver the boat towards where the bait fish were breaking, and I threw the net. To the amazement of both of us, I caught about a half dozed Bunker. I struggled to get the fish out of the net, never having done this before. We finally, and as hurriedly as possible, got the fish out of the net and into the bait well, filled the well with water, and tried again. I readied the net as Al moved us into position for another throw towards the breaking bait. I guess the practice in the yard paid off, as I got another nice round throw. This time I pulled up about a dozen bait. I tried a different technique in freeing the bait from the net, and it worked like a charm. We were able to ready ourselves for another attempt in no time. I had Al move us to a spot at the edge of where we could see bait, and made another throw. I was questioning whether or not we had gotten close enough to the school, when I could begin to feel fish struggling in the net as I pulled it tight. The biggest haul yet. There must have been a dozen and a half fish in the net, all 12 inches long or better. It was actually a bit difficult to lift. It was so heavy. Again I successfully freed the bait quickly. We laughed aloud as we flung the fish into the bait well, and I put the net away. A few quick buckets full of water to wash the little jellyfish and debris of the deck, and we got under way. Never before had we gotten so much bait in so little time. Well, that was about as exciting as the day got. We lost plenty of hooks and bait to Blues while landing a couple, but the Stripers were once again scarce. Al caught one while using just the head of a Bunker. I caught one short Striper while using some sort of a small bait fish that I couldn't identify. It looked like a Snapper Blue, but less fork in the tail, and the back was an iridescent green. I'll have to look it up somewhere. We persisted until about 3:00 in the afternoon, but no more fish. This is supposed to be a very productive time of year. I don't know what's going on. This is only my third year of Striper fishing, and still have a lot to learn about these fish.
Nov. 8 (Sun.)
Al and I hit the water to see some tiny bait breaking right at the dock, and that was it. We found nothing in the river. Neither Bunker nor Hickory Shad. We spoke to one other fisherman who only caught 1 Shad himself. The wind had persisted for over a week straight, which prohibited us from getting out last weekend. Maybe the wind and cold nights had finally pushed the bait South. The water had dropped form 58 ½ degrees two weeks ago, to 52 ½ degrees today. Supposedly, when the bait leaves, so do the Stripers. We headed out with our eels any ways. As we approached the end of the channel, we saw hundreds of birds swarming over the water. I headed over to try to let Al have some fun with a surface plug t catch some Blues. I couldn't understand why they wouldn't hit the plug, even with a good cast well into the school. The birds were much thicker over a hundred yards or so, as the school of fish moved. This time I motored quietly right into them. The surface of the water looked and sounded as if it where boiling as the feeding fish and bait hit the surface. Since this was going on within a couple of feet of the side of the boat, I could finally see that they were schoolie Stripers ranging roughly from 12 to 18 inches, chasing two to 3-inch long bait fish that I couldn't identify. Once I realized this, I switched Al's lure from the plug to a chrome Rattle Trap. He immediately began to catch one every cast. I use his little fresh water rod with a shad dart, and caught a few myself. What a battle on light tackle. We decided that although this was fun, we should head out to catch the start of the tide in search of the bigger fish. This day proved no different than the last few trips. We hooked up with two big Blues at the same time, lost plenty of eels tails, and never caught a keeper Striper. At one point we saw the birds working a school of fish near Duck Island, and decided to chase them again for a while, to at least have a little fun. We both lost the lures we were using and the replacements we tied on were not the same colors, and fared poorly. At least we had fun for a while. We ran back out to try for the big boys again, but didn't find any. The wind was a bit stiffer than expected, but off shore, keeping the waves down. It did make for less than desirable drifts though. While this may well have been Al's final trip for the season due to a commitment next Sunday, I hope to get out at least one or two more times. I will probably buy bait for Blackfish, but spend the first couple hours looking for any remaining Stripers before dropping anchor. Lets hope this isn't it. With no bait in the river, it may well be though.
Well, I'm finally getting around to finalizing this log. I've already finished a successful pheasant hunting season with Zack, and may make the first ice fishing trip this coming weekend. The Striper season certainly over as of my last entry. Pen and I made one last Blackfish trip that went afoul due to motor problems, which have since been resolved. I see occasional reports of guys still catching a few big Stripers in the Sound, but with my limited experience, can't find those few remaining fish this late in the year. Something else to work on next year.All in all, it was a fabulous year. Everyone, including both Pen and our dog Zack, enjoyed fishing out of the new boat. Al has come a long way towards becoming an outstanding fisherman, as well as mate. Fishing with him lends to a comfortable a competent feeling. Al and I took two long time buddies out with us this year, and introduced them to Striper fishing. With Al and I as Captain, guides, and mate, our inexperienced guests always fared well. I had my most productive season ever. I ended the season having caught a total of 55 keeper Stripers, eleven of which were 40 inches or over. The largest was 44 inches and weighed 34 pounds. A lot of very good quality fish this season, but I still have yet to catch that elusive 40 pounder. One of these days...ONE OF THESE DAYS...
To Be Continued...