By Stuart D. Adams
A Season Worth of Striper Fishing
May 26 (Tues.)
First Striper trip of the year. While I am chomping at the proverbial bit, waiting for my new boat to be delivered, my buddy Tom offered to take me with him on his first trip of the year. I'm thankful he did, as I always enjoy fishing with him. We headed East from Clinton toward Crane Reef. It has been a good early season spot for both of us in years past, so we thought we would try there first. I had a hit on the very first drift, but without a hookup. The tap, tap, tap led me to believe that it was either a Blue or a small schoolie Striper. The eel was gone, and with no scrape marks on either the line or the hook, I have to think schoolie. Within the next hour, we each had boated one Striper apiece, and I dropped two fish myself. One was right at the surface and may or may not have been a keeper, it was that close in size. The other fish I lost bent the rod in half and refused to come up off the bottom. Once I finally started to make a little ground with the thing, Tom grabbed the net saying, "Uh Oh, Looks like braggin' rights! This might be braggin' rights." About half way up, after running all around the back of the boat, trying to keep the line away from the boat and motor, we both cried out with an "Awww" as we heard a pop, and watched the tension vanish from the rod and line. Once I reeled up, the hook was still there, to our amazement. I must have hooked just a piece of skin inside the mouth, and it finally broke loose. Oh well. We know they are there. From there, we ran to the "Secret Spot" and I picked up the biggest fish of the night. It measured 36" and weighed 21 lbs. We both had other hits there as well. A quick run to another productive early season spot, Inner Southwest, where again we both had hits, although we landed none. Another quick little run over to Kelsey Point, where the rip was unbelievably rough, even though surrounding seas were nearly flat. It was too much trouble to fish, so we counted our blessings with a trouble-free first outing, and with the reassurance that we hadn't lost out touch, and headed in. We were both happy to have found fish in all of our regular spots, and were left with hopes of having one of our most productive seasons yet. It seems very promising, even after just this one outing. I can't wait to get out here in my new boat! I will be more than happy to chauffeur Tom around for a change. Let me be the captain, freeing him of the chores, and let him just concentrate on catching fish. For all he has done for me, I will finally get the opportunity to feel as if I am giving something back. I think we would both enjoy that!
June 14 (Sunday)
With our new boat now sitting in the driveway, the rain yesterday was tough to take. The weather report gave the indication that early Sunday AM might provide a break in the weather during which we could fish, but when I awoke at 5:30 A.M. and looked at the weather radar, the trip was off. It looked like another several hours of bad weather at least. By noon both the skies and the radar picture looked as though the rain had passed. So my wife Pen, my son Adam, and myself scrambled to get ready, and made a mad dash for the Sound. We hit the ramp in Clinton at 1:00 and headed out into the fog. Visibility was only about a half mile so we carefully marked our route on the new G.P.S. as we worked our way out the channel to the end of Kelsey Point. From there, I used my old handheld Loran to guide us to a spot on nearby Southwest reefs. The first few drifts with my son and I using eels produced only a few light taps, but no takers. I did notice suspended fish on the color sounder. I assumed they were Blues by the distance off the bottom, so I set Pen up with a spinning rod and diamond jig, told her to drop it to the bottom, then reel like crazy. The three of us continued to work the area as the tide slowly grounded to a halt. While it was still just barely moving, Pen yells, "I got a fish!" I set my rod in the holder and grabbed the gaff, ready to land the Blue. After a number of runs, she finally got it to the surface, "It's a Striper!" Down with the gaff and I grabbed the net. I swung aboard a beautiful Striper that was 33 inches long and weighed 11 pounds. It was a special event in two ways. Not only did she catch her first Striper ever, and a quality fish at that, but she christened the boat with the first fish brought aboard. Cool! Before the afternoon was over, I had landed two Stripers of 36 and 36 ½ inches weighing 17 ½ and 18 pounds. Adam missed a few fish, and dropped a nice one near the surface after a long battle. That's fishing! One of my Stripers was taken at Southwest, and the other from a little "Secret Spot" a little East of there, kinda, sorta, about. What a great first trip in the new boat. The sun actually broke through before the day had ended as well. It was great to have a successful maiden voyage, especial with Pen getting her first!
June 18 (Thurs.)
I had left the boat at the dealer to have a few minor bugs taken care of after fishing last Sunday. I made sure everything had been taken care of by calling, and got the OK to pick it up. Pen suggested that I head down early to check the work, and to stow the gear back aboard. She said that she and her sisters would meet me at the Clinton ramp at 5:30 to do a little fishing this evening. He didn't have to ask me twice. I had been reading a lot of fishing reports about people catching fish over 40 inches long while I hadn't broken 36 ½ yet. I was beginning to get a little jealous. Well, that ended this evening when at about 6:30, at a dead slack tide, I was positioning the boat over a secret little bump. So little in fact that I came to a stop about 15 feet from where I wanted to be and missed the mark. With neither tide nor wind to pushme back on, and my line being the only one down yet, I started the motor, tapped it in and right back out of gear, and watched as the depth finder showed that we were now over the bump. I watched my line slowly swing back to the vertical position. Well, almost. It never made it. With a circle hook tied on I just made a half dozen or so quick turns on the handle, and the hook was set, then the fish took off. The reel screamed. At first I though my drag was too loose, but after tightening down on it I realized it was now too tight and had hooked a monster that just refused to turn, and had to readjust. After what seemed like an eternity, with numerous runs, it was coming up. I was concerned that it would wrap my line around one Lobster pot buoy that was between us, but he slowly pulled the boat clear of the obstacle. Lucky! I slowly worked it to the surface where Pen slipped the net under a beautiful 44-inch, 34-pound Striper. What a fish! Before the evening had ended, Pen landed a 40-inch, 21-pound fish, and I boated a 41-inch, 23-pound fish. WHAT A NIGHT! All big fish. Well, to me anyway. I think of anything over 40 inches as exceptional, since I don't catch many over that mark. I cannot believe that Pen's second Striper ever met the mark. Nice job!
June 19 (Fri.)
Tough night. Brought Al and Greg along for the night. We struggled as we watched my buddy Tom put three keepers in his boat while fishing the same spot. Just not our night. Finally, after dark at Kelsey Point, I caught one short fish and Al caught a keeper Striper 36 inches long and 16 pounds. At least the boat wasn't skunked. Pen was feeling quite nauseous by then so we headed in to try to find her some comfort. She said she had been feeling ill for almost two hours, but the guys were so excited about being on the new boat, and the night being so comfortable, she didn't want to be a killjoy and cut short their first trip. What a trooper!
June 20 (Sat.)
Pen decided to spend some time with a friend, so I rounded up Greg and Al again to see if I couldn't give them a little more successful trip. The weather cooperated once more. Well, eventually. We drove down to the shore through a horrendous downpour that made many folks pull to the side of the road and stop. We just continued on slowly and carefully. We got there just as the storms ended, and headed out. We hit Kelsey point first, but we were mid tide and it was ripping. We could not keep our lines straight down. I did manage one short and one keeper there though. After about an hour of that nonsense, we headed to Crane Reef. By the time we cruised around it exploring, the tide was visibly starting to slow. We made about 10 drifts on the shallow bump without success. We then slid over a little to the deeper bumps, and I boated the heaviest fish of the night on the first drift. Then Al caught one a few drifts later. The action slowed so we headed to "Secret Spot." I had a hard time finding the exact little spot I wanted, but once I did, pay dirt! We hooked up with the first triple I have ever witnessed. Weactually managed to land all three, although it looked like what we called as kids a "Chinese Fire Drill." Despite the chaos, we did well. We thought we would try inner Kelsey before heading in. No luck there so we crawled in through the now pea soup like fog and headed home, pleased with the good day after the slow one yesterday. The fish were...
Me; 36"-17#, 40 ½"-25 ½#, 42"-26#, Al; 35"-17#, 41 ½"-24#, Greg; 43"-22 ½#
June 26 (Fri.)
What a night! If I had not committed to a guy that seldom gets to go out with me, I probably would have canceled the trip. The wind was unbelievable. Twenty knots at least and steady out of the Northeast. With the tide going the opposite direction, a good drift was impossible. We struggled through the first few hours with the wind and the tide opposing each other. While jumping around, we spotted a bunch of Terns working frantically over Southwest Reef, so we hit the brakes to see what was going on. I picked up a nice sized Blue, 9 ½ pounds, on an eel just off the bottom. Bob picked up two schoolie Stripers on eels while reeling back in toward the surface, and lost several more eels to Blues. Though Bob would have happily fed the remaining eels to Blues, I decided to get out of there while we still had bait, and head toward another spot for the tide change. At least the wind and tide would be going the same general direction. We got to "Secret Spot" just as the tide ebbed. With the intense Northeast wind refusing to relent, we still continued to drift at the mercy of the wind, rather than at the pace of the tide. This makes presenting the bait in a natural manner impossible. Convinced that fish were present, I continued to work the spot. I finally attempted to slow our drift by leaving the motor running , then slipping in and out of gear in reverse. While I was busy concentrating on controlling the boat, Bob scored a nice 36 inch Striper. Only a couple drifts later he hit a 34-inch fish. Bob brought along for the trip Michael, a 14-year-old fatherless boy that plays football on a team Bob coaches. Bob handed Michael the rod, and Michael fought the fish. Well in fact. With me concentrating on the boat rather than my line, I got hung up, and broke off. With only two eels left in the bucket, and Michael asking when we were going home, I retied my 3-way, but then stowed the rod. I headed to Kelsey Point to try to put Bob on another fish as we headed in. Although I tried the same trick, we could not manage another fish. We headed off the water at about 10 PM and the wind never did let up.
July 3 (Fri.)
Greg and I headed out for an evening trip. We were both off work, so we left the house at 3:00 and we were fishing by 4 P.M.. Shortly after 5:00, Tom Samal showed up, so the two boats fished pretty much in tandem the rest of the night. Both boats had a good night, although Tom's crew outdid us as usual. We both put fish in the boats at first Crane Reef, and then at "Secret Spot." We were outdoing Tom's boat at "S.S." on a little bump about 50 yards Northeast of were he was fishing. When he asked, I shouted over that we were getting hits every drift. He ran right over and started catching fish. The action began to slow for us sowe headed to Southwest. We did not spend much time there before deciding to head in at about 10 P.M.. We had caught six Stripers, and seen three fireworks displays over the Sound. Tom caught up with us as we were rounding Kelsey Point preparing to head into Clinton Harbor. He told us that as we were leaving "Secret Spot," he was just about to do so as well after catching all smaller fish, when he hooked into and landed a 44-inch fish, the biggest that night. His boat ended up catching at least a dozen keeper size fish, while we managed just six. A respectable catch, but pale in comparison. My fish were, 41" - 25#, 39" - 22#, 38" - 21#, 29" - 8 ½#. Greg was happy to have caught two for the first time. His fish were, 36" - 18#, and a 34" fish. All in all, a good night on the water.
July 4 (Sat.)
After only about five hours sleep, 7:00 A.M. rolled around pretty quickly. Pen was shaking me saying that her sisters were here already. Therefore we started a little later than I had hoped for. Today's quarry was to be pan fish. In particular, Blackfish, Porgies, and Black Sea Bass. We were armed with Sand worms and Squid for bait, and were anchored in the fog at Southwest Reef by 9:30 A.M.. Though we tried hard, and tried several locations, all we could manage were Cunners. After a couple hours of this, the fog had lifted and Pen suggested I try to catch a Striper with the remaining eels. I ran to "Secret Spot" and it didn't take long before I had boated a 38-inch fish. We pretty much spent the rest of the day cruising around the Sound, marking a few locations on the G.P.S. I wanted to save, and putting some time on the motor to finish up the 20-hour break-in period. We ended up getting off the water about 2:00 P.M., amidst the heat and hordes at the ramp. A gentle reminder of why I prefer evenings.