Sunday, August 27, 2006


Sunday, 9/27

Finally, a tale of good planning.

On and around Labor Day last year I began to notice something important. That one specific area of the bay held very large, aggressive striped bass under certain conditions. This area had produced several fish in the upper-30s to mid-40s range (inches) last year, and the interesting thing was that the birds didn’t give it away; they didn’t seem to notice. I keyed in this spot on my GPS unit (randomly assigned as point 32, or “P32”) and one day last month I decided to study the tide charts and attempt to predict when P32 would be most productive. It would require a certain tidal stage (elevation) and time of day. The current had to be right and cumulative daily boat traffic at a minimum. So I took out my calendar and marked the necessary mornings. Yesterday was one such date.

I had stayed out in Chatham with my family on Saturday night and, therefore, had to rise at 4:00 to get home in time to fish. This I did, and by 5:30 I was speeding out to P32 with two spinning rods that were stealthily fitted with only the best surface lures known to mankind: Joel Meunier’s red-headed dick minnow, otherwise known as the Cherry Popper. As I approached P32 I feared that both boats that had departed the harbor just ahead of me were going to land there first, that maybe I wasn’t the only guy around who thought he knew this spot. My fears seemed credible as I neared the vicinity; both boats looked like they were right there at P32! But as I gained ground it became clear that although they were close, there still was a considerable buffer to work within. It was still quite dark, but as I neared my spot I cut the lights to be less conspicuous as sometimes fishermen, particularly weekenders, will simply motor right up to where one is fishing to cash in on the action.

My drift was right on. I cut the engine. First cast: weed, and lots of it. Second cast: more weed. Crap! I was in no mood for this kind of situation. After I cleaned off the cherry popper’s sole, small treble hook, I gazed at the water for a little while to see whether there were any areas devoid of the floating weeds. I thought I saw a boundary to the stuff and cast the line quite far beyond it, knowing full well that I would encounter some weed, but at least have 20 to 30 meters of clear water. On the third crank of the reel I was jolted by an incredible explosion of water. The popper disappeared into a foamy hole that had opened up in the surface of the flat water and then a huge tail firmly slapped the flatness. And then the line began to scream.

The weight of the fish was felt in the rod and I had to double up my grip while it ran. The line stripped off the reel for an eternity and I thought I would get spooled. When the fish paused, and after I gained a few meters on him, I quickly looked around to the other boats; no one was noticing this event. Over the next couple minutes the fish and I drifted a significant distance out toward the mouth of the bay, passing lobster pot buoys at a surprising rate. The ground I gained on the fish was soon countered by the wining reel, line peeling off at incredible speed. OK, OK, you get the picture now…I’ll cut out the artsy-fartsy descriptions of the fight because you must be guessing that at some point, I got the fish to the boat. And this happened after about 10 minutes. My first glance at the thing made my eyes pop. “OK,” I thought. “Just concentrate on the fish, not the feeling of elation one gets when it is finally boated.” After 3 or 4 attempt to get him into my net I finally got him over the gunwales by grabbing the tail simultaneously as only half his length fit into the net. My hand was only barely able to grip the large tail. He was in. Holy Shit!

Soon I was back for another drift over P32, but upon returning a boat came out from Plymouth and must have sensed that I was onto something. It contained a father and son. They were a bit too close for my comfort. Nevertheless, we took turns drifting over the spot and after several lost fish and one or two mid-20s released, I finally hooked back into another large one. The explosion was even bigger. A long fight ensued and after I landed him I discovered yet another boat had descended upon the drift. This boat I recognized and was immediately discouraged by the man’s intention to drop his umbrella rig over the 8 feet or so of water. I began again towards the head of the drift, but then decided to quit. After all, I was on top and happy. There were two large bass in the boat and was turning into a beautiful morning.

On shore I dropped into Atlantic Angler to weigh and measure the fish. Bob O’Neil was impressed, as were the few others milling about the store. He took some photos and we assessed their metrics:

Fish #1: 41.5 inches; 25 lbs.
Fish #2: 39.0 inches; 23 lbs.


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