Monday, May 22, 2023

Runners of the Tide

It has been an enjoyable start to the surf fishing season so far. The main reason being that my uncle and angling mentor is in the midst of a saltwater renaissance. After not sharing a tide in years, we have been out together this spring a half dozen times already—learning from each other while rehashing old memories and making new ones. Often it is not the fish that make these trips standout. Then again, sometimes it is unforgettable catches or bite windows that are engraved into our consciousness for years to come. 

For us thus far, this season has been all things squeteague—an intriguing and handsome fish that migrates to the same haunts each spring like clockwork, some years in better numbers than others. This year seems to be a very good year for weakfish in Connecticut waters. They are not everyone's cup of tea. Some can't stomach the crowds they draw. Others are after something bigger, or maybe they loathe the endless bumps from horseshoe crabs mistaking wading boots for potential mates.

While I hardly enjoy a packed beach, I'll put up with it a few times each May. Thankfully when prime tides are very late or very early, even the most popular spots can be a ghost town. Catching the inaugural squeteague of spring almost feels like getting a monkey off my back. They can be challenging, partly due to the finite window of time we find them from shore with any kind of consistency, and partly because hooks often lose purchase in their weak mouths after seizure-like headshakes. Patience and a loosened drag can help.

A big draw for me is witnessing the overall natural spectacle that is taking place; a convergence of fish, shorebirds, and arthropods that has occurred here each spring for millennia. Also, when everything lines up in your favor, you can experience a window of unparalleled action. Waves of weakfish charging up the beach and multiple rods bending in unison. A brief period with a bite so intense that you better make sure your offering is in the water and swimming well. 

We were fortunate to experience two evenings like that recently, where for about 30 minutes it was lights-out action. Up and down the waterline, all you saw were anglers in various stages of hooking, fighting, or beaching weakfish. I landed more in one trip than I had in multiple years. Some of them hit my jig only a rod's length from my feet. It was nutty for a little while and then it wasn't. That's the way it goes sometimes. And the more time you put in, the better the odds you'll eventually stumble into events like that. I am just glad that I was a small part of it, standing there right next to my uncle.