Thursday, August 4, 2011

Dialed In

As much as surfcasting is in my blood, it's always a treat fishing productive stretches of shoreline from a boat.  Not dealing with taxing walks over rocks is one of the bigger perks.  Another is the amount of ground that can be covered efficiently.  Some dyed-in-the-wool surf fisherman may claim that catching striped bass from a boat is 'cheating', but I bet my best rigged eel that none of them would have turned down this trip. 

After working late one recent evening, I met Mike & Derrick at the boat launch just before 10 PM.  We had to hurry to catch the last of the low-incoming tide, which had been fishing well lately.  It was a beautiful, calm night and the dark sky was littered with stars.  There wasn't another boat in sight and the shoreline was devoid of headlamps.  Things happened fast and furious when Mike cut the engine.  My second cast produced the first hookup of the night.  Unfortunately, it turned out to be a bluefish that severed my leader.  Not a big deal I originally thought, but before I had time to tie another rig on, a wave of large striped bass moved in and the melee began.

The captain struck first and by the sound of his screaming drag we knew it was a better fish.  After a couple good runs, it surfaced boat side and Derrick lipped her as I snapped away with a camera that usually doesn't see saltwater action.  It was also nice having Mike's 60-pound Boga onboard, so we didn't have to ponder the weights of our fish.  This one was a clean 32-pounder and a great way to start the night.  

Immediately after that bass was released, I went back to tying a Uni-knot when Derrick hooked up on his next drift.  The fish pushed a good amount of water on the surface giving us a hint to its size.  The blistering runs that ensued gripped our attention as she sped away from the boat.  Eventually, as the bass tired and drew closer to us, we were treated to amazing trails of bioluminesence in its wake.  Mike soon corralled the leader and buried his hand in the maw of the 37-pound bass, which the tape revealed at just around 46-inches long.  The trip wasn't 30-minutes old before two bass over 30-pounds were caught and released.

After some photos and a successful release, I finally had a chance to finish retying my rig.  Of course by then things had quieted down, at least in terms of size of the fish eating our eels.  The good thing was that a slow and steady pick of smaller bass, ranging from 22-pounds to schoolies, remained for the rest of the incoming tide.  All the while, a lack of wind allowed us to make real nice drifts tight to shore without having to jockey the boat around much.  After a lull, the captain decided to make one final pass in front of an erratic boulder before moving west a few miles.  On cue, my eel was slowly taken by a heavy fish right in the money zone.  She was all business right from the hook set and took off like a bat out of hell.  My 8-foot rod was bitched and braided line was pouring off the reel at a dizzying rate.  Not able to do much other than hold on, my heart sank to my stomach as the 40-pound main line went slack.  There was no rubbing or chaffing, the braid was sliced by a rock like a hot knife through butter.  As difficult as it is to judge, I still believe that it was one of the larger bass I'd ever come in contact with.  Oh well, that's fishing!

Rightfully so, the lost fish kept us around a bit longer before the decision was made to hightail it for a dipstick at another one of Mike's haunts.  If nothing else, it would give a rest to the water we had hammered for a few hours.  So we left fish to find fish and you may be able to guess what happened next; we came up empty at spot number two.  After about a half hour with only a cigar'd eel to show, we floored it back to the original location for the beginning of the outgoing tide.  The bass were right where we left them and some larger ones seemed to be around again.  I hooked up on what felt like a decent fish, but it didn't really put on the afterburners until it got up to the boat.  A close-quarters battle ensued before Mike lipped the bass and I joined the 30-pound club for the night.

Not long after the fish kicked away from my hands, Derrick came tight to another.  And again, the noise his reel's drag was making suggested it was a quality bass.  Mike and I held off casting to avoid any trouble while Derrick fought her to the boat.  After the Boga disclosed that it was 31-pounds, he revived it as I got some photos of the release.  That made the fourth and final bass over the 30-pound mark for the night.

I wish the second wave of large lasted longer, but it was over as quickly as it started.  After Derrick's last fish, we were running low on eels and the clock showed 2 AM.  It was a weeknight and unfortunately, some of us had a thing called work in the morning.  Energy drinks were cracked and a few last casts were made before heading back to the launch.  It had been a hell of a night with some real nice fish and good laughs.  Hopefully it won't be too long before we're back out there again, pitching eels and waiting for a bump.

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