Sunday, October 25, 2009

Point Well Taken

I stumbled upon an amazing find while walking the shoreline with my better half today. My heart nearly skipped a beat as I picked up a fully intact Native American projectile point. It's just the fifth full point in my modest collection, but definitely the most rewarding because of where it was found--right in my hometown on Long Island Sound. Below is a photo of the artifact worn down by the elements. I believe the typology is known as "Bare Island" and the tool was most likely last touched by human hands a couple thousand years ago. Pretty cool to think about. 

Friday, October 23, 2009

Ice Prep

It's time to prep for the upcoming ice fishing season and a big part of that means stocking up on bait. Making time to secure a bait supply months in advance of winter isn't always easy to do, but it can pay big dividends. Friends and I often use dead baits through the ice, especially when targeting northern pike. Why dead bait? Pike are known to be opportunistic feeders, even more so later in winter as their spawning season approaches. Dead baits make a big, stinky, and easy meal for pike to find. And with dead baits there is no hassle of trying to keep them alive for long periods of time or trucking them around in bucket of water--just a vacuum-sealed bag or Ziploc and you're good to go. 

There is incredible diversity when it comes to pike bait. Some prefer native options like golden pond shiners, fallfish, yellow perch or sunfish. Others like to go exotic and drop down saltwater baits like sea herring, smelt, tinker mackerel, and ballyoo. One of our preferred  baits is fallfish, mostly because they work well and we can catch them ourselves before winter sets in. Fallfish are silvery, elongated minnows that can tolerate summer water temperatures when most of our put-and-take trout have died off. They reach sizes of over 16-inches and will attack most any lure, fly or worm with a vengeance. Fallfish make hardy baits, dead or alive, and can be used over and over if taken care of properly. 

This fall has been pretty poor for me so far in terms of catching ice bait. Some anglers have great success trapping fallfish and golden shiners, but I have yet to dive into that. I depend heavily on an ultra-light rod and reel to catch mine. Most years I tend to hit the small streams too late in the fall and discover that most fallfish are already in their winter hideouts. So more and more lately I have been relying on purchasing saltwater baits in large quantities. It saves me effort and time, but there is something really cool about catching your your bait that catches your fish. 

Fallfish = Pike Candy

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

American Eels

Live or dead, American eels are incredible effective at enticing large striped bass. When it comes to surfcasting, I cannot think of a more versatile bait. They can be fished simply on a hook, rigged as a lure, fixed to a wobblehead or jig head, and you can drape their skin on a plug. Eels can be purchased in almost any tackle store or even trapped in almost any harbor, marsh or river in the Northeast. They can be easily kept alive for long periods of time in a tank or on ice. Dead eels can be frozen and used again. Rigged eels and eel skin plugs can be stored in kosher salt and saved for seasons on end. And I would bet if you asked a group of veteran surf fishermen what they took their best striper on, the majority would say they were using an eel in one way or another. Eels are a surfcaster's best friend.  

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Blues

I just finished John Hersey's Blues, which should be recommended reading to anyone who has ever tangled with this formidable foe. The book couldn't have found me at a better time, as my home waters have been invaded by monster bluefish that are corralling schools of Atlantic menhaden in shallow water. Some striped bass are in the mix picking up the scraps, but it's large blues running the show at the moment. These yellow-eyed demons are packing the pounds too; an average catch this week would have fetched you $25,000 in August's WICC Bluefish Tournament, which had a poor first place showing of 13.92-pounds. 

Many anglers have a love/hate relationship with bluefish. They can chomp through 60-pound test mono like horse hair and swipe your expensive lure in a heart beat. Blues can also wreak havoc on your bait supply in short order. I've had a bucket of eels go to waste more times than I'd like to remember. But there seems to be a size threshold where all that hatred fades away. When a bluefish surpasses the 15-pound mark it gets much easier to acknowledge and respect their power and ferociousness as they make violent head shakes and fry your reel's drag system. They are true fighters in every sense of the word.