A Modest Proposal: Catch Fewer Small Stripers This Year

It’s no secret that our precious striper stocks are stressed. New regs are going into effect (check your state for specifics) that every striper angler should know about. But this year, I’m creating my own reg.

It starts with a question: Do I really need to catch 50 small bass at the mouth of the Hous? Do I really need to catch 20 sixteen-inchers in June during the grass shrimp hatch, or on a flat on the Cape during a sand eel blitz? The answer is no.

I’m asking you to join me. When it becomes clear that it’s a small bass on just about every cast, I’m going to reel up and stop fishing. So yes, let’s still fish. Yes, let’s still have fun. But let’s also give the bass a break. Catching another dozen dinks won’t make you a hero. Walking away will.

Sure, they’re fun. But they’re also ridiculously easy to catch. These bass are the future of the fishery. So please consider giving them a break. And while you’re at it, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to the ASGA. This group is gaining traction, and is beginning to have a real, quantifiable effect on the state of the fishery. Thank you.

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Striper Report 3/30/20: doubleheader skunking

Not satisfied with yesterday’s Farmington River streamer spanking, I ventured out last night with old friend Bob for some more piscatorial abuse. We fished the Hous from 9pm to nearly midnight. Our reward was…bupkiss. Well, not exactly. Bob managed one tap on his plug (spinning for Bob, fly for me). On the plus side, I reacquainted myself with my two-handed cannon — the rust factor was minimal, and it felt good to bomb out 90 foot casts with little effort. Oh! I also managed to wade through the deepest hole I’ve ever ventured into without breaching my waders. So I suppose dry and skunked beats soaked and skunked. We’ll go with that.

Not from last night. But I did fish a Rock Island flatwing (eaten below), a high confidence herring pattern I developed many years ago. You can read about the Rock Island flatwing here.

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But…Aren’t those the ASMFC’s most important jobs? — a brilliant essay by Charles Witek

If you don’t know who Charles Witek is, don’t feel bad. (I didn’t know who he was before last year.) So. Charles Witek is a very good friend of striped bass. He’s articulate, knowledgeable, and — well, heck, you can find all that out for yourself when you read his excellent essay, “But…Aren’t Those The ASMFC’s Most Important Jobs?”

It it, Witek takes a quick look at a recent survey of ASMFC commissioners. As Charles says, it turns out that the commissioners, “think that the Commission is least successful in managing rebuilt stocks, ending overfishing, and having commissioners cooperate with one another to manage fisheries. But aren’t those three things the whole point?”

Who knew?


An in-depth, must-read synopsis of Tuesday’s ASMFC striped bass meeting from one of the commissioners

Captain John McMurray (NY), to whom I gave high marks as I listened to the chaos of the webinar, has put together a wonderful synopsis of Tuesday’s meeting. John had the advantage (or as some wags might suggest, disadvantage) of being there, witnessing, and participating in the entire process. This is a must-read, folks. You can find it here.

In the meantime, if you fish for stripers in Rhode Island, please send an email to RI commissioner Jason McNamee asking to reconsider voting in favor of the 28″-35″ slot limit. Ask for your comment to be entered into the public record. They’re meeting on it this Monday! I’d like to see a roll call of everyone who sends an email in the comments section.

Best of 2019: a fun little fly fishing recap

With today’s guide trip cancelled, I turn my attention to reflecting upon the fishing year that was 2019. Here we go, in chronological order:

Fly Fishing Shows in Marlborough and Edison. The Marlborough Show was particularly memorable for the weekend ice storm that paralyzed the region. Let’s just say that — ahem — attendance was light on Sunday. Nonetheless, I had three(!) intrepid anglers at my presentation, “Lost Secrets of Legendary Anglers.” I spent the rest of the morning chortling that I had the day’s biggest crowd, which was accurate until Ed Engle beat me by two. “Lost Secrets of Legendary Anglers” will return in 2020 at 10am, Saturday January 20 in the DT Room C, along with other Seminars and classes. What makes these shows memorable — and appreciated — is the chance to see old friends, connect with peers, and meet you, my valued reader. Please come say hello at the shows in January!

Old friend Tim Flagler is one of the nicest people you’re going to meet at the Fly Fishing Show.

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Speaking of Speaking: every fly fishing/tying club gig I did. This may sound like a shameless attempt to curry favor, but I assure you it’s on the level. Teaching and talking about fly fishing is by far my favorite part of this job, and it would not be possible without your support and enthusiasm. So, thank you CFFA Expo, Cape Cod Flyrodders, Legends on the Farmington (I’m doing another class in February 2020 so stay tuned), Russell Library, Hammonasset TU, Thames Valley TU, Capital District Fly Fishers, Farmington Valley TU, and Nutmeg TU for your patronage.

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Housy and Farmington River features in Eastern Fly Fishing magazine. Wow. I actually get paid to write about two of my favorite rivers? What a country! And thanks to editor John Shewey for thinking of me.

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My new two-handed cannon. Once I figured out the right head configuration, I became a dangerous casting machine. Many thanks to old mate Mike Oliver for his wonderful design and exacting craftsmanship. I now sneer at the wind at the mouth of the Hous. And the west side of Block. So there.

In addition to being a fine rod builder, Mike also brews a delicious cuppa on the beach. Milk is included. Very civilized.

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Trophy Smallmouth on the Little Salmon River. We got kicked in the nuts by Mother Nature for spring steelhead, so a-smallmouthing we did go. They sure grow ’em big up north.

Gordo and Row Jimmy with a bronze slob. 

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Epic June wet fly bites. My goodness, how I love the Farmington River’s Light Cahill/Sulphur/Caddis/Iso bite window of late spring/early summer. Both clients and I enjoyed the thrill of double-digit days.

Figure 1 (of many). Greg’s rod might have permanent bend.

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A hot Housy White Fly bite. If you go enough, sooner of later you’re going to hit the summer blizzard just right. I think I missed it last year; this year on more than one occasion I was snow-blinded in August.  There’s a certain rush you get from drifting a size 10 White Wulff that you can no longer see, then feeling a sudden crushing blow that resonates down to your fingertips. Wow, wow, wow.

Be sure to keep your mouth shut. White flies do not taste good.

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Catching a Scottish trout on a traditional Scottish wet fly. The conditions were disgusting — driving rain and windy — but Cam and I soldiered on and were rewarded with several hefty trout to net. The highlight for me was catching one on a Kate McLaren I’d tied several years before, never dreaming that I would one day be fishing it bob-style on a loch.

Cam with his first fish and guide Graeme Ferguson (wonderful to make a new friend); a kiss for a fellow lover of Kate McLaren.

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Fun at the Striper Moon film premier. It was in many ways a Who’s Who of southern New England striper fly fishing. What a treat to watch Lori Shankar’s film with Ken in the audience.

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(Finally) establishing a presence on Instagram. If you’re not already following me, please do. I post content on stevecultonflyfishing that you won’t find here.

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Big Fall Housy Browns. After last fall and this year’s winter high water, the resident browns had ample opportunity to feed and grow with very little angling pressure. A lot of the Housy faithful I spoke to declared this the best fall fishing in years. Can’t argue with them!

Over 20″ of holdover butter.

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A silver lining to a poor Salmon River steelhead run cloud. I only need one steelhead to make me happy, so landing this big buck on a morning where the temperature never got out of the teens had me in a grinning mood.

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So, you’ve made it this far. Please tell us about your 2019 highlights.

 

So, what happened at the ASMFC meeting last week?

I was out of the country, so I missed the live stream of the ASMFC meeting. I did hear some secondhand comments from others who watched. Lowlights included a few commissioners congratulating themselves for being longstanding ASMFC honchos (great resume point: “In charge of saving striped bass when the stock was decimated.”); business as usual (read: foxes guarding the henhouse) from certain NJ and MD commissioners; and a commissioner from MA whose biggest concern about fishing restrictions was loss of revenue from striped bass tournaments. (Really? Gonna start a sea robin tournament when the striper stock collapses?)

Sidebar: there was a proposal in MA (not ASMFC related) to increase the quota days for commercial striper fleets since they fell far short of their quota this year. You can’t make this stuff up. It reminds me of an old Peanuts strip where Lucy says to Linus, “Your stupidity is appalling.” Linus responds, “Most stupidity is.”

So, enough editorial. The best summary I’ve read is from the American Saltwater Guides Association blog. You can read it here.

Let’s stay vigilant on this issue. I’ll do my best to relay good information as I receive it.

Many ASMFC commissioners noted a high volume of passionate public comments. Thanks to everyone who opened their big mouth!

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“Striper Moon — A Legacy” film in Providence August 20

“Striper Moon — A Legacy — J. Kenney Abrames” will premier 8:00pm August 20 at the Avon Cinema in Providence, RI. The film is the project of Lorri Shankar. Here’s a link to Ken’s Stripermoon Blog Facebook page. Hope to see you there!

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