This one’s going to be brief, folks, because I have nothing good to report. Well, that’s not entirely true. I got to meet up with old striper partner-in-crime Bob. We each enjoyed a cigar on the walk out. And I got to shake some of the rust off my two-handed casting. Beyond that, it was cold, the wind was blasting out of the east at 15mph (with higher gusts), it rained most of the time we fished, seaweed and grassy detritus was an issue, and neither of us got a single touch. I saw one striper caught by a spin angler. I talked to another fly angler in the parking lot who said he caught two small fish, and that it had been fairly slow thus far. I wish I could tell tales of the Bass-O-Matic, but that will have to wait for another day.
Want to book a date with a big striped bass? Put in on the calendar! Read my most recent piece, Why Making a Tide Calendar for Striper Fishing Will Help You Land More Bass, currently in Field & Stream Online, and you’ll learn how to build a calendar that notes the best times and tides for fishing the striper marks that you love.
Put it in the books.
If you fish for and love striped bass, Charles Witek is a national treasure. He stays on top of nearly every important meeting, issue, and decision regarding striped bass stock management, and reports back to us. Here’s a terrific essay from his blog, One Angler’s Voyage, “ASA Striped Bass Webinar Omits Key Rebuilding Issue.”
I can’t remember the last time I took a legal fish. Might have been Block last summer.
Those of us who grew up with off-the-boat Scots grandparents know the song “Wee Deoch an Doris” well. For the uninitiated, as you have not heard it, I shall proceed to translate and offer context. The song is about having one more drink before you head home. “If you can say it’s a braw bricht moonlicht nicht” (if you can say it’s a good bright moonlit night), then you’re a’ richt, ye ken (not nearly as intoxicated as you may think). So, have another.
That also made me think of Chip Diller getting his paddling in the Omega initiation scene from Animal House. I might as well have been saying “Thank you sir, may I have another,” to the moon this past week, because when it was out and braw and bricht I took a right spanking.
To misquote Starbuck, moonlight feels wrong. I lost the moon lottery big time — quarter going into full is by far my least favorite time to fish for stripers at night.
I won’t bore you with the minutia, but here’s the story in numbers: Seven nights. Three skunks, including two in a row. The last time I took such a beating was 2012 or 2013. For context, I had one skunk in my last 15 Block outings over the past two years. I ran into an angler — I’ll call him “J” — whose response to me telling him that I hated fishing under the full moon was, and I quote, “you’re crazy.” Now, I appreciate J’s enthusiasm and confidence. And I desperately wanted to be proven wrong. But the fact is, whether flat or surf or dredging deep bottom, I scored a big, fat zero — not even a courtesy tap — on every night the moon was out.
To continue the kvetching, size — or lack of it — continued to be an issue. Used to be that I could count on Block to produce a high percentage of legal fish. Heck, in 2018, a third of the bass I landed were over 28″. This year, not a one. OK, so there were no micros in the mix, and a 24″ Block bass battles like a 30″er from the Hous…but the continued lack of bigger striped bass from the shore is disturbing, although not surprising.
Was it all misery? Heck, no! I had four fun-filled nights, three with double-digit numbers. I played around with my fishing schedule and was able to beat the moonlight — even this old dog can adjust. One night the weather gods appointed a magnificent cloud bank to shroud the Island. The stripers said yes. And I got in some seriously wonderful trout fishing for stripers.
I’ll tell you more about it soon.
This just arrived in the mail and it seems like an artifact from another age. While I’m proud to say that I’m a three-time member (all on the fly while wading, which makes it even more of a challenge) it didn’t happen last year and I don’t see it going down this year, either. Of course, I’m quite willing to be proven wrong.
In case you’re unfamiliar, Stripers Forever is an organization whose mission is to make the striped bass a gamefish. The “Release A Breeder Club” was started years ago to encourage anglers to release stripers over 36″. In today’s climate, that’s a no-brainer. Plus, you get a spiffy certificate to display your worthiness. Keep the fight short, keep ’em wet, let them do their job to repopulate the East coast!
Thanks to everyone for another well-attended Zoom. It’s refreshing and encouraging to see so much interest in flatwings! I know Ken was pleased to hear about it.
As far as future Zooms go: this has been great. But now that summer is unofficially here, I’d rather we all spend our Tuesday evenings fishing. So we’ll take a summer hiatus after next week’s Zoom. Depending on how things shake out, this is something we may resume (get it?!?) in the winter. Stay safe, be well, go fishing!
More flatwing/bucktail hybrid secret sauce. This one’s on a Crazy Menhaden: 70 hairs, 6 colors.
Good words from the ASGA: “We don’t want to be tone-deaf on the major issue at hand. However, life must go on and we still have to keep everyone informed on fisheries management issues.”
ASMFC is meeting today; striped bass management is scheduled from 3-4pm. For more details, click here.
Peter Jenkins of the Saltwater Edge continues his excellent podcast series with surfcasting legend Dennis Zambrotta. Yeah, I know, the focus isn’t fly fishing. But if you’re a total Block (Island) Head like me, you’re going to want to give this a listen. You can find the Saltwater Edge “Surfcasting Around the Block with Dennis Zambrotta” podcast here.
Pay particular attention to what Dennis has to say about seaweed…
First, to the ohfer. That’s right, folks, I blanked yesterday at the Mouth of the Hous. On the one hand, I feel like the kicker who misses a chip shot FG in OT. On the other, it’s not like the river was en fuego (fifteen anglers spaced out on both banks where I fished, and I saw two bass landed in nearly three hours of fishing). Not exactly the stuff from which legendary days are created.
The tide was massive and the currents and rips were in full moon form, but for now I’ll hang my hat here: you cannot catch what isn’t there — or doesn’t see your fly. And I made sure they could see my fly.
While the Mouth of the Hous in April is not a place you’d normally go to practice a CDC-Approved space between you and the next person, the number of anglers was eye-opening. This was 70 degrees and sunny Saturday afternoon traffic. Solitude seekers, you will not find your bliss here. Except maybe today or Friday when the winds are supposed to be in the 20s with gusts to 40mph. (Thanks, I’ll pass.)
I can see it. You can see it. But if there are no bass to see it…
Second, here’s a terrific read from Joe Cermele: Don’t Blow This for the Rest of Us: How We Keep Hunting and Fishing During the Pandemic. Joe was my editor at Field & Stream, and this article is worthy of your time.
Please stay safe and healthy, and thanks for reading.