Friday, August 12, 2011

The Pickpocket

American eels, rocky areas and late tides continue to add up for large striped bass in Long Island Sound.  The spots may have changed, yet the tactics and results remain the same.  After a recent honey hole dried up, it was time to dipstick neglected haunts for a pulse.  Early this week, at a locale much closer to home, one lone 14-pound bass was caught between four anglers.  Not the results we had hoped for, but a keeper-sized striper from shore in August can be a small victory in itself.

Last night, we hatched a different game plan.  Will, Aaron and I focused on two areas in the eastern Sound that I hadn't fished in two seasons.  These were known 'big fish' spots that had flexed their muscles to us in the past.  The tide was turning from slack to ebb when we arrived to the first location.  The moon was so bright that we didn't need headlamps to light our path along the rocks.  Despite the well-lit sky, we could still make out the occasional shooting star thanks to the Perseid Meteor Shower.

Confidence was high at first, but it slowly waned after drifting eels for a few hours with not one hit to show for it.  Aaron switched to a soft-plastic bait on a wobble-head tin that looked very sexy in the current.  Will ventured off to try other spots within the spot.  I added a small egg sinker above my offering to get down a little deeper.  None of the adjustments helped the cause.  The decision was made to cut our losses.  We arrived at spot number two about half way down in the outgoing tide.  Will donned the wetsuit while Aaron and I chose waders.  The wetsuit let Will get out a little farther than us, but on this night it wouldn't matter. 

After he waded through neck-deep water and found his perch, Aaron and I flanked his left and right.  I clambered up on a giant boulder, not giving much thought about how I would land fish from it.  On just my third drift, something heavy inhaled my eel and I drove the hook home hard.  Instantly, it tail-slapped the surface and took off like a banshee.  I didn't call for assistance until the fish pushed water for the second time and really showed her size.  Will couldn't hear me between the wind and water, but Aaron made his way over to lend a hand.  When the bass came close, I used the roost to my advantage and steered the fish into a crevice between boulders.  Aaron risked water going over his waders as he clutched the lip of a 44-inch striped bass.

Photo credit: Aaron Swanson

The fish that lay across my lap was the second longest striper I had ever landed.  If it wasn't my heaviest, it was very close.  Except for a notch in the caudal fin, it was in perfect shape.  The warm water and lengthy fight had taken its toll though.  There were a few moments where I thought I would be lugging out the hefty bass back to my truck.  However, I didn't give up on her and cradled the bass in current as I felt life slowly creeping back in.  It took a full 15 minutes for me to comfortably let go of the fish in the shallows for a trial run.  After passing, I brought her out to deeper water where she kicked from my hands.  As awesome of a feeling it is to land a nice fish, releasing one is that much more rewarding.

Aaron climbed on the rock where I had hooked the bass and started bombarding the area with casts.  After getting my act together, I fished off a rock to his left.  Will, unaware of what just went down, continued working the water to our west.  For another hour, we covered every inch of the place without another touch.  Just one one bump, one fish; right after waltzing in.  And as we were walking out, Will finally heard the story and turned right back around for more.  With the alarm clock sounding in just a few hours, Aaron and I hit the road after another memorable night.

Photo credit: Aaron Swanson


  1. You can hide your face all you want Kierran - I know what you look like.

    Superb fish, by the way.

  2. Thanks, Andrew. When I look at the camera after a good fish, I always have the 'deer in headlights' face going on. It's about the fish anyway, right? Hope all is well in OH.

  3. Seems to me you all are having a very good summer - is this better than an average summer for you? You guys are catching stripers during that part of the summer that I just felt I had to endure.