Friday, February 5, 2010

2009 surf fishing review

Big surf... early Fall, Montauk Beach
To hell with luck. I'll bring the luck with me."
-The Old Man and the Sea

In analyzing last season, I'd like to skip the entire year and fast forward to my last good fish of 2009. I like to call it, "Tale of the Broken Lami." As you can see from the title, the experience ends in heartbreak. Lets set the stage. Early November I met with some good buddies, like every other weekend of the fall, to wetsuit Montauk Point during yet another Nor'easter (I lost count by how many we had last season). The conditions were extreme to say the least, with reports calling for 40 mph gusts and heavy rain. This night we lucked out though, with the wind staying around 30-35 mph with only soaking rain (some luck I guess). Fishing these conditions is like trying to swim in a giant washing machine filled with rocks with a blind fold on. To say I spent more time tumbling around the surf then standing on my rock casting is an understatement. You can drink a lot of saltwater before your stomach starts to cramp. Determined to catch some "large" we pushed hard the entire night until we reached our limits before early dawn, only catching a few schoolie bass for our efforts.

I was exhausted, and my muscles ached to the extent that simple tasks like taking off my wetsuit and boots had my shoulders burning and arms shaking. I hunkered down in my vehicle and slept the entire mornin
g and most of the afternoon in the parking lot. When I woke around 4:30 p.m., the wind shifted and was blowing a steady 25 mph from the Northwest. I was planning on a bit more R&R (aka a few beers and a burger) before fishing the night tides, but the new wind conditions and outgoing tide pushed in a decent mass of fish north of the Point. From the parking lot I can see the boat guys were already beating up on the action, which was out of casting distance from the shore. I quickly decided to gear up and check it out myself, even though I wasn't expecting much that early in the afternoon.

I put on my cold, damp wetsuit and made my way down to a decent spot, which already had a crowd of fisherman sitting on rocks and watching the boats. The few that were fishing stayed in shallow water away from the large surf and heavy sweep. I tightened my hat and worked my way out to the action. The current was strong, and every other set of waves came in over my head. I dug my boots into the rocks and pushed my weight into the tide to brace my body against the sweep.

After casting/leaning/dancing for 10 uneventful minutes, I caug
ht a glimpse of something from the corner of my eye. A giant black head came up to the surface for a few seconds then disappeared. I cursed, thinking it had to be a seal, which would immediately shut down any chance of a bite. I focused on the spot and waited for it to resurface, when I saw another giant shadow push water up and disappear into the current. I was wrong. It was a school of big bass. Very BIG bass. It was the school of bass I've been looking for all fall, and I finally found them in the middle of the afternoon with the sun still high. Funny how irony works.

The first head that surfaced was so big, the thought of it made my hands start to shake. I opened my plug bag and grabbed a 3 oz white bottle plug, one of the only lures I had on me that would to reach the fish in these conditions, and let her fly. The plug touched down a few yards from the spot, and I cranked my reel hard to pick up all my slack line from the windy cast, allowing the bottle dig into the current. I gave two full cranks of my handle and a "tap" feeling went through the rod tip into my arms. I set the hook.
The fish slowly made its way to the surface with a good head-shake throwing a wall of white water spray which carried off into the pushing wind. I cranked hard and set the hook a second time to make sure I had a solid connection. The fish put its head down and peeled line off with the tide, dumping around half of my spool on the first run. I never let up. After a few minutes I had her head turned, and gained line slow and steady.

Every fisherman loves the moment they see their catch for the first time, and I'm no different. My mind wandered those last few yards of the fight. Would it be a giant, or maybe my personal best?
The fish surfaced and I was sadly mistaken. It was a nice striper... about 43"-44" and pretty fat. The heavy current and wind gave the fish a huge gambling chip during our fight, which made her feel a lot bigger then she appeared. A good catch, but not "the" catch.

Now, just a side note, I'm not a
big fish snob. I love catching decent fish, and would be thrilled with a night of fish this size, but this fish was a dwarf compared to the two that surfaced minutes before. I picked up the bass, and heard a few gasps from the crowd of guys on the beach, measured and released her at record speed. I wanted a COW.

The next cast is when it happened. I let some line out, arched back loading my rod for the next heave (and fish) when "POW" ... that was the end of it. My rod snapped in two just below the bottom guide, and my plug landed about 60 yards short of a school of trophy
bass in a mess of line and graphite. My trip was over. After the reality of it all set in, I gave out a good laugh. Big fish get that size for a reason. Maybe because guys like me get overly excited and break our gear when we see them.

I made my way back to shore, and was immediately stopped by a few fisherman who gave me kudos for the fish, and condolences for the mishap. I never mentioned the school of bass I was targeting. I figured they earned their stay, for how ever long they decided to hold in that spot.

Maybe next season we'll meet again. Only t
his time I'll have a backup rod in the car.

Some pics from 2009:

Early spring bass, light tackle plugging, L.I. Sound
Springtime sunrise, L.I. Sound
Kayak fishing after a foggy night, Rye, N.Y.
Ted holding his rock. Fall Nor'easter, Montauk, N.Y.


Ted said...

Bravo! I wish for Fridays, the spring run, drinking during summer doldrums and losing sleep while others trick or treat....... effing bass.

Mike Sudal said...

I hear ya man!