Apr 24, 2009

the first day out: a 34-inch bass

Saturday marked the start of the 2009 Jamaica Bay fishing season, and we were out in heavy ranks. Jon D. drove down from Albany, while George, brother Nick and guest Michael took time away from Orthodox Easter celebrations to put in a few hours at the wall.

I pedaled my way from Bay Ridge over the Marine Parkway Bridge that morning, picking up bait and supplies, making it out by 1:30 that afternoon, well before the 4:05 high tide scheduled for that afternoon. We had two poles down when Nick showed up on a bike with a basket and three other poles - two from past summers, one from... the past. It looked like a Beach Boys pole, but it took on the moniker the Jesus pole, perhaps in honor of the Easter festivities and its age.

It was in shambles, and was the joke of the day. The reel was held on by three or four plastic ties and a length of electrical tape, and the top eyelet was bent opposite the others. When George rigged it up that morning, he ignored the eyelet altogether, and I don't blame him because using it would have twisted or snapped the line for sure. Clearly

And wouldn't you know on only the second cast our there, the Jesus pole, about 20 feet down the wall, falls to the ground, is pulled upright again, and starts to slide down the cement. Nick ran for it, and set the hook only to realize that the reel had no drag and was barely controllable. Still, he managed to get the line to come in and when we hopped up on the ledge of the wall, there it was below: the first catch of the season - a beautiful keeper bass on the end of the line, swimming sideways through the bay water.

Now the debate begins: free it or keep it? As I may have mentioned on these pages, I've been leaning more and more toward freedom rather than food, but the general feeling that instant was to get the fish out of the water no matter what. Judging from the old rod and reel, it felt like it could escape at any moment, so its fate was sealed: it would be kept.

I held the line taught, and the fish was exhausted. George showed up just in time to grab the gaff-on-a-rope, and we were set to not repeat mistakes of the past. Carefully, the hook was lowered down, and when it was in the fish's mouth, pulled upward and hooked into its lip. As opposed to last year, this time we didn't rush, testing the weight before lifting it briefly off of the water to put the net below it. One it was lowered back into the net, the job was easy and within seconds we had it over the wall and onto the ground: a 34-inch bass caught with a rod and reel that you'd laugh at.

Best yet, on opening day! Last year, I think we got maybe four or five keepers the whole summer, and now on the very first day out we get one.

Nearby, a guy in a Verizon truck pulled to the side of the road with his flashers on to watch the commotion, and when we got the fish up, he offered to buy it on the spot, but Nick wanted to keep it, and it was his catch.

How much would you have sold a 17-pound bass for?

In the end, the fish caught a ride back to the house in the basket of a bicycle, if you can believe that, and the next hour or so was spent discussing the success.

For the rest of the day, nothing was caught on any pole, new or old, except a measily skate that I caught later in the afternoon.

We left after about 4:30, having put in a good few hours, and I didn't make it out there the next day.

Next up: Sunday a.m. high tide fishing this weekend. We'll see.

Apr 15, 2009

Striped Bass Season Opens: Same Rules as Last Year

Official confirmation is in, via phone call to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation: striped bass season is open from today (April 15) to December 15, following the same size and quantity limits as the '08 season.

Each angler is permitted to keep one fish, minimum 28 inches, and a second fish, minimum 40 inches, per day.

Today in New York, it's rainy and chilly - certainly not the most comfortable conditions for fishing. As for me, my own plans include two afternoons of high tide fishing this coming weekend on Jamaica Bay. Two other fishing pals have committed to join, and the plan I've hatched is to stake out the bay wall for at least the two hours before and after high tide.

Last year, after a disappointing couple of weeks toward the end of prime time (May 1 - June 15), it wasn't until June 13 that I deliberately set out to fish high tide. The results were shocking. I had five poles out, all fully rigged and landed four bass ranging from 22-36 inches. At two instances that afternoon, two poles were hit at the same time and I ran from one to another, setting the hook and quickly trying to judge which fish was largest.

My strategy this year: focus on high tides, no matter what time of day.
Record each catch, if possible, and document as many catches as possible.
Also, more nighttime fishing.
Finally, listen to more Jackson Browne.

Apr 9, 2009

bunker burglars!

The owner XTL Transportation, in Linden, New Jersey-based trucking company reported that more than 63,000 pounds of Menhaden baitfish (a.k.a. bunker) were stolen early Wednesday morning along with the refrigerated trailer the fish had been stored in.

In an article published in the The Star Ledger, the owner of the trucking company stated that two other storage containers that held furniture and other items were also cut, but the items were not stolen. Only the baitfish were.

He admitted that he suspected an inside job, and police are investigating. Supposedly, the fish are valued at about $130,000, which seems about right if your gold standard is the Citgo baitshop in Rockaway.
I can just see Tony Soprano now, sitting on a pile of bunker near the Jersey shore.

Apr 7, 2009

The Golden Trout

Courtesy of two close friends and fellow anglers.