A Season Worth of Striper Fishing
Editor’s Note: This huge story/diary is a trip by trip account of fishing for trophy Stripers. Anyone thinking of going or has been Striper fishing will love this exciting and informative story. We must forewarn you however, this story is a long one…
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.
The New Boat
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.
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 ½\” & 33 ½\”. 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 ½ 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 ½, 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.
Sept. 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…
Spring of ‘99…