Monday, August 1, 2011

Good Predictions

Editor's note:  This is the first guest post on The Connecticut Yankee, written by my long-time friend and fishing partner Aaron Swanson.

My fishing partners have been making good on their predictions this year. Right around the time of the herring run this spring, while fishing a tidal river, Derrick proclaimed to Kierran and me that one of us would be getting a new personal best (PB) from one our rocky locales out east as the summer progressed. Last week, Kierran said that before long it would be him on the other side of the camera, documenting rather than experiencing, another personal best. They both turned out to be right.

The July new moon occurred on the 30th this year, but our mid-summer surf schedule has generally carried our nighttime efforts through two calendar days. In this case, the turn from the 30th to the 31st marked my 28th birthday. I caught my first striped bass, a keeper nonetheless, on my 22nd six years ago (after trying for nearly a year) and have tried to make it a point to fish the date with each passing year. While I haven’t caught every year on that outing, I managed the best present I could ask for this time around.

Strategy in the dog days is usually the same. While fishing in the western Sound can be good, the somewhat cooler waters of the east have historically provided better action for us. Proximity to deep water, prominent rocks, current, eels, and foregone sleep are generally the keys to finding some fish in Long Island Sound from shore in August.

The long walk to this spot can be a bit of a drain, but after a quick breather we were in action. My lack of a wetsuit wasn’t as important this time as it was the prior week because the full tide had us pushed up against the shoreline. Kierran continued his hot hand, hooking landing and releasing two fish, one in the near 20-pound range before the tide started to crank, moving the current seam we were plying out of our casting distance and taking the action with it. To this point, all Derrick and I could manage were bumps and missed hook-ups. A break for a Red Bull and some discussion of a short walk led us to move a few hundred yards west, where we were able to reconnect with the current that had moved out of our reach.

Photo credit: Aaron Swanson
We were immediately tuned to the presence of fish as we each had bumps in our first couple of casts. I was first to hook up and land a mid-teen fish before Kierran kept us going with a near clone of his first. This fish was hooked deep and went home to his table. He landed another smaller fish, and I dropped a bluefish before a bit of a lull had us thinking about heading back where we started. We decided we’d take a couple more casts and then move again. Kierran fortuitously told me to “make them count”.

I had a subtle take on my next cast and hauled back but didn’t make great contact. Figuring the fish was coming at me I caught up, felt more pressure and set again for good measure. It’s probably a good thing I did because the fight that ensued would test my tackle. The fish sulked for a while and had me thinking it was probably similar in size to the others we had taken thus far. Then my rod flattened out and line dumped off my spool. The new moon current aided the fish in its attempt to head for Long Island and my rod and braid groaned under the pressure. I managed to turn the fish and we had a standoff before I finally started to move her toward me before trading line back and forth; I don’t know how long it lasted but it seemed like forever. She moved some water in tight and our lights shown on a gaping bucket-mouth. My partners grabbed and subdued her and as we went about getting ready to get a couple pictures I went to wipe what I thought was some weed off of the fish’s flank and found a tag. It was the first time I had seen one of those in person – pretty cool and I’m looking forward to finding out where and when she was tagged. Like a week before, the 30-pound Boga on Derrick’s belt wouldn’t do any good reading this fish so I’ll be happy to stick with the 43-inch measurement we got. She bested my old PB by only a half inch but being as thick as she was I’d venture to guess she had a few pounds over her predecessor.

Photo credit: Kierran Broatch

Photo credit: Kierran Broatch

After a successful release, we probed the area for another hour or so before we lost the tide and depth we needed and we called it a night. After I reached my front door around five in the morning, I realized I didn't drive home so much as float. I couldn’t have been more thankful to take my turn at a new best, under the circumstances, another year, good friends, enjoying myself in the best way I know how.

Editor's note:  I usually release most of my striped bass and it's not because I don't like to eat them. Much of the decision is with conservation in mind; the other part is because it's not fun walking with a heavy bass after fishing all night, then filleting it when the sun is coming up. However, cooking and eating a fish that I just harvested from the sea is a cool feeling once in a while. Having family and friends enjoy it with me only adds to the experience. 

One of the fun things after keeping a fish is checking its stomach contents. When I reached into the belly of this bass and felt a large snack in there, I was guessing in my mind what it could be. It turns out it was a partially digested summer summer flounder about a foot long. It was awesome to see the food chain at work--a striped bass sucks down a fluke off the bottom, then falls for my eel, then ends up on my dinner table. The striper steaks were covered in red onion, garlic, butter, and olive oil, then wrapped in tinfoil and essentially baked on the grill until the thick fillets were cooked through. It was delicious. 


  1. You guys never fail to amaze me. Excellent. WW

  2. Thanks, WW. Hope the Cape is still treating you right!