When It All Comes Together!
After my Cuttyhunk debacle that I wrote about last month, I headed to Block for a 1-night trip co-guiding Kieran McGlynn, who would be spending 4 guided nights on the Island as co-winner of the Support the Troop’s auction that took place early summer. My co-guide was Pat Abate of River’s End Tackle, a long-time Block fisherman from the “Big Fish” days. There was a storm brewing and the fishing reports described fishing as “spotty.” I was in good hands with Pat and I knew Kieran from shows and plug making. He would be wetsuit fishing for the first time per my recommendation. Pat and I were on the same page, preferring the Southeast and North sides of the Island. Big waves from an off-shore storm kept us confined to the shoreline. Kieran’s wetsuit experience would have to wait.
As the light faded, Pat got right to it — getting a fish on a first or second cast. I moved down toward my rock — at the lower tide I could briefly see it between 6’ rollers sweeping over it. After getting banged around a little, I got to a rock short of mine and somewhat out of the line of rollers. The rock was shaped like a ski-jump with the lower portion having a nice, flat casting platform while the upper portion was steep and pointed. I could reach deep water from this perch and when the horizon blackened (meaning “Big” wave), I would scrabble to the top of the rock and balance on the point until the wave swept by.
On my 4th cast, I hooked a good fish. It took me down into the rocks, first around one and then around another rock. Usually, when I feel my line rubbing on a rock, I ease off on the drag. But with the big waves sweeping by, I didn’t want this fish to go too far. I decided to give my shock leader and new FG knot (attaching my 30 lb. Fireline Original Fused to my 10’ shock leader of 60 lb. of Ande mono) a good test. If you remember from my last newsletter, Alan Cordts taught me this knot which is an almost seamless connection of running line to shock leader. I was fishing my 10’ CTS rated 4 to 8 oz., so I dragged this fish back around both rocks into open water — and soon to me. It turned to be a 24-pounder that hit my Giant Pike, Dark Olive Iridescent Scale. Not a bad fish to start the season on Block.
While I was cleaning my fish, Pat guided Kieran to a fish of similar size at the North end. As the tide turned I took Kieran to the quiet water on the West side to test out his wetsuit and got him into some deep wading. The night ended too soon, but I would be back at the end of the week for 7 nights on Block with re-newed enthusiasm and feeling back on my game. What a difference a fish makes!
My week on Block started slowly. On the first night, Tom White, Pete Lajoie and I guided John Curren on his last night on Block. The stiff east wind and weeds kept me from my familiar spots on the Southeast side. Even the quieter water on the West side was weeded up. Tom and Pete got into a few fish, but John and I were fishless. I was able to find clean water by wading out past the weeds on a rocky bar. The big rollers coming over the bar made it uncomfortable but fishable. Two guys moved into position behind me with their lights on and then they left their lights on! They were far enough back that I felt their lights would not affect the fish (if there were any), but it was annoying as hell and did nothing for my night vision. One guy soon moved back to shore and, finally, the other guy did, too. I was glad I waited them out because the water on the bar was setting up nicely.
The problem was the second guy after getting to shore left his light on. It was a bright one and it felt like it was trained on the back of my head. I wanted to ring his neck! I lasted a couple or cast and then I headed to shore and to talk to him. There is not a flat rock on that bar — it is a jumble of bowling ball-sized rocks and I rolled my ankle on every step. He had his light trained on me all the way in. I know what I wanted to say and do, but I am reminded of what my wife would want me to do. She thinks of me as a fishing Elder, so I took a couple of deep yoga breaths to center myself so I could speak somewhat calmly.
First thing I said in the most unthreatening tone I could muster, “You Gotta Turn that Light Off!” It was what I suspected, they were 2 young guys. The guy sitting down had on waders and a t-shirt. It was a cold night and I was just comfortable in my 7mm wetsuit. He had taken a wave over his waders while on the bar and they were full of water and he was shivering. The guy with the light had on a nylon windbreaker over his waders and was a little better off. This is a pretty tough place to fish so I asked them why they were here. They said they liked it because they could get farther out in the water, but hadn’t fished it that much. I offered to take them back out on the bar and show them how to fish it. The wet guy said he was done, but the guy with the light took me up on the offer. I told him we would use our lights pointed down to get out on the bar, but then we would turn them off. Even in the dark I could see by the look on his face that he thought I was crazy. I showed him that after the retrieve he could hold his plug up to the horizon and there was enough light to see if there were any weeds on his hooks. We headed back out onto the bar and once we set up and began casting to his credit he never turned his light on. We have all been those two kids in waders even if it was too long ago to remember. If you get a chance to help one out, do it, it will pay off in the long run.
My night ended as slow as it started, and although it wasn’t as good as John would’ve liked, he had his first taste of Block, one that will keep him coming back.
I went fishless on my first 3 nights on Block. Not even a bump. I was using Trollers, SLIM Trollers, and Sand Pike XL’s — all 10” plugs, but the bigger fish that were around the week before seemed to have moved out. The fish that were caught were small. On my 4th night, first cast, I got my first fish. It came in pretty good water on a rocky bar, but it was only a little bigger than the Troller I was using. After 30 minutes more of no hits, I switched to a Giant. The 2 guys fishing to the left of me left even though I saw them catch some fish. I was wondering if I should be doing the same. I decided to hang in there a little longer. With the southeast side still weeded up from the strong east wind, there weren’t a lot of places I liked to fish.
If nothing else, I was getting to cast a new CTS S7 rated 4 to 8 that I was given to try out. At first glance, the rod was pretty intimidating. I asked them for a 12-footer that had to be able to throw a full-sized Troller (8 oz). I was used to the slim blank of my 10’ PJ rated 4 to 8 oz. This rod was much thicker, stiffer and a little heavier. I was tempted to give it back without even throwing it, but here I was casting it. The sweet spot seemed to be the Troller and SLIM Troller (new name will be “Casting Troller” so not confuse it with my SLIMs) and that was a good thing! I didn’t feel like I was loading the rod much when casting the Giant Pike (4 oz.), but it was getting it out there just fine. The next thing I knew I had a hit in close and it felt like a pretty good fish. With the drag on my ZB cinched down I had no trouble pulling this fish up on the bar (waist deep water) and into shore. The key here was getting this fish into shallow water quickly where she couldn’t dig in. There sure was a moment of intense standoff, but I didn’t give in. This fish was no match for this rod in close. This fish turned out to be 28 ½ lb. and took 2nd place in the 5-week PBR Block Island Striped Bass Tourney. They say that most fishermen are liars, but the polygraph that I had to take to receive my prize proves that I am not one of themJ. I caught this fish on a familiar color Dark Olive Iridescent Scale (“GRS 51”) and the new rod had gotten my attention. I was getting used to the size.
With 3 nights left on the Island, the wind turned and the East side finally cleaned up and the surf was dropping. When I tried to get to my rock, there were two guys fishing short of it and it would be rude to swim in front of them. I fished for awhile to the side of them, but I was in the line of some big rollers coming in. I got swept of the rock I was on and bobbed around in the cove for a short time. I finally packed it up and went to bed. I planned to get there earlier the next night.
The next night couldn’t come fast enough and it brought a very high new moon tide. My rock was underwater and I was having trouble finding it. I stopped a few rocks back and started casting. There had been a school of big bunker on the east side the past two days, something I had only seen one other time on Block. Before dark, as I was moving out into the water, there were two boat loads of divers moving away from the point I was headed too. Little did I know at the time that the divers had seen bass all over the east and southeast sides, and I was the only one out there. I decided to stay with the big rod so I only took big plugs. A friend had put a big eel skin on a Sand Pike XL and I wanted to give that a try. I fished for awhile with a SLIM Troller, but the water was pretty flat so I switched to the eel-skin.
I soon was into a decent fish and the eel-skin pulled in a fish that went 25 lbs. on the boga. The wind came up and I switched back to the SLIM Troller (Casting Troller) and I got some bumps and another fish of similar size. At the top of the tide, I swam in to get the top of my wetsuit. I had left it on the beach thinking it was going to be another hot night, but the wind had put a chill into the air. The wind was at my back and if it is true what they say — that bunker swim into the wind — I could be in for an interesting night. It was the start of the outgoing and the water was still really high. It was full dark and I was determined to find my rock. I hadn’t been on it in a year. I swam in the general direction of my rock and got lucky and I kicked something and when I got on it, it was my rock. When I stood up I was waist deep in water. I began with my Casting Troller.
My plan at the beginning of this season was to spend more time with my bigger plugs. I wanted the first plugs out of my bag to be my SLIM Troller or Sand Pike XL, depending on conditions. I was now getting a nice feel for the S7 and all of a sudden it wasn’t too thick and heavy. With the wind behind me, I was casting the Trollers so far that I couldn’t hear them land. Usually you hear a big splash. I soon picked up a couple of fish in the low twenties, then I had a solid take and a good fish on. I had the drag cinched down, but she was still taking some line. This is a strong rod and I could really put some pressure on this fish. This felt like a good thirty pound fish. I had her in pretty close, she broke the surface and lunged and the hook pulled. Damn, I would have liked to have seen that fish. I landed a low twenty fish, then had another good fish on. This one didn’t feel as big as the one I just lost, but bigger than anything I had landed so far. I held it on for awhile, but also dropped this one.
A Change of Strategy
With the Fireline original fused (no stretch), strong rod, tight drag, deep water and no big waves to help fight the fish, I felt like there was too much pressure and I was pulling the hook out of the bigger fish. I could do it with fish under 30, but not anything more than that, especially in calm conditions where the fish could keep digging in. These fish were being hooked farther out, too far to fight a heavy fish as aggressively as I was. I backed off on my drag. The next fish was in the mid-twenties, it didn’t take any drag, and I got it right in.
Then I got a teen-sized fish on a SLIM Troller. At this point in the tide, the water was calf-deep on my rock. With my light on, I got the fish to my rock, staring in awe as a fish in the high 20s followed my hooked fish in. The bigger fish slowly swam right up and touched it nose to the tail of the hooked fish, then spun around and swam off. This confirmed for me there were a lot of fish around and it was time to share the wealth. I had seen a light come on behind me, in the water but pretty far back. I wasn’t sure if this was one of my group, but I had the feeling it was the guy that kept me from my rock the night before. I yelled, asking him if he was getting any hits. I didn’t hear his reply but I knew he wasn’t. These fish were at the end of my cast, well beyond where he could reach. I told him to come up and join me. He said he didn’t want to crowd me. I told him there was plenty of room. From the sound of his voice he was not one of my group. I was not only sharing the fish I was also sharing the location of my rock. At this tide, the rock was underwater and not easy to find. I turned my neck light around to the back of my head and told him to swim for the light. I took another cast and was immediately into another fish. I gave him a hand getting up on my rock and finished landing the mid-twenties fish. The fish would come and go and we took turns catching fish. My biggest that night was 27 lbs. on the boga and several just shy of that.
It is a good feeling when your best-laid plans work out. I had wanted to spend more time with my bigger plugs this year, but my question was whether I could be effective and catch consistently. So far it was working out and the fish were bigger. Between bites, Iler and I got to know each other. It is hard to beat good company and fish! In the early morning, we invited another guy out whom I knew. I let Ilir and Roger share my rock and I moved to another rock that was underwater but assessable at a lower tide. This rock is pointed and not very comfortable, but I managed two fish in the mid-twenties off this rock on the SLIM Troller in “Custom Porgy”. I got reminded how strong the current sweeps out from my rock on an outgoing tide when I tried to swim to a more comfortable rock and missed. Swimming back to the pointed rock, I felt myself being pulled out by the current. I had to swim as hard as I could to make it back and I was winded. I have been wetsuiting a long time and between big waves and current you have to pay attention. I have recently taken two fisherman in their 60’s swimming for the first time. Long time fisherman, but new to wetsuiting , and after their swim I could see it in their eyes I had opened up a new door for them with lots of possibilities. To them and all new wetsuiters: take it slow, respect the water, and be aware of big waves and currents. When I am fishing in big waves and want to move out farther. I will watch the rock I am headed to for a good 15 to 20 minutes. I am still fishing, but have an eye on that rock. I gain a good feeling for the size of waves coming over that rock. It’s one thing to get on that rock, it’s a whole other one to stay on it.
Upcoming Speaking Engagements
This Fall I will be speaking at the following venues:
Sept 19 at The Fisherman Magazine’s Surf Fishing & Seminar Show – 6pm to 10:30pm
Huntington Hilton Conference Center, 598 Broad Hollow Rd., Melville, NY 11747
Nov 6th at the Pioneer Valley Boat and Surf Club meeting, 7:30pm to 9ish
Springfield Yacht & Canoe Club, Agawam, Ma.
Be Safe! And Go BIG!
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