Fish On: Boatloads of fish, happy faces and one angry bird

COURTESY PHOTO | Fishing columnist catches angry bird. Both our writer and the tern lived to fight another day.
Fishing columnist catches angry bird. Both our writer and the tern lived to fight another day.

Reports from various places and assorted fisherman are as positive this week as they have been since the early run of stripers in May. Result? Happy faces everywhere

I made several trips out to the Gut on the last of the outgoing tide since last report, taking grandsons, one of their lady friends, my son-in-law and guests, and we literally “loaded the boat,” catching and releasing almost all bluefish with a touch of stripers on three trips. Another trip it was the reverse, with mostly bass and a few blues in the mix.

The methods were the same with small white bucktails doing the job on fish of all sizes. One of the bluefish days yielded 20-plus pound blues and two 24-inch bass, and the bass day resulted in 14 bass to 24 inches and three blues. All the fish were caught in approximately two-hour time periods each day and all were released.

I am happy to report that this column guided several who read it to real action with the best report coming from Lou Bevilacqua who landed six bass, including two keepers — he only kept one — under the Gull Light in a few hours on a Saturday morning and another trip early on Labor Day. More reports of success came from others who were guiding their kids on the great quest for a bluefish big enough to win the annual Shelter Island Snapper Derby. They caught blues from Gardiner’s to Pigeon Rip and west to Jessup’s.
There are definitely many happy faces on the fishing front.

Many more happy faces were spotted at the annual Shelter Island Snapper Derby weigh-in. Fair weather, O.K. wind conditions and a large number of snappers within easy reach of the “fisherkids” blessed the event.

I visited the weigh-in with family and they were amazed at how many kids were there to weigh in their prize catches and how much fun they were having just being there. We counted about 200 contestants who weighed fish, picked up their T-shirts, went off to look at the poster entries for next year’s T-shirt logo, and then had something to eat. Everyone there had a grin from ear to ear. Hats off to Darrin Binder and the Lions Club volunteers who did a great job.

One of the best features of the Derby was that most of the kids had only kept one or two fish to weigh in and released the rest that they caught. This amounts to a huge conservation of resources and the kids are having fun while being taught “catch and release” at a very young age. I can’t stress how important it is for all of us to keep only the fish that you plan to eat and release the rest. Don’t kill fish just for bragging rights. Use a camera and release the fish!

Here’s yet another happy face tale. Picture this — a beautiful sunny day, the tide is ripping seaward in Plum Gut, terns are in the air screaming as they dive on bait being forced to the water’s surface by bluefish and striped bass that are splashing everywhere. Your intrepid fisherman (IF), me, lofts a long cast into the melée, with a 1/2 ounce bucktail on it, hoping for another bass, when a tern runs into the line in the air, flaps his wings to get loose, gets firmly ensnared and lands in the water.

Since IF has been down this road before, landing birds all around the country, including a wayward pelican, he knows just what to do. He starts to carefully reel the squawking bird in without doing any damage to its fragile “airframe” and the bird slowly moves across the water toward the boat. Then, suddenly, a disaster strikes!

A fish decides to choose that time to eat the bucktail dragging below the bird on the line connected to the bird and the tern disappears below the surface like a bobber going down when a snapper takes a bait. Things get serious now as the fish and the current are pulling the tern further into the depths and the bird will drown in minutes.

IF doubles his efforts to raise and save the bird. It takes about three minutes of steady cranking before the bird finally pops above the surface and, surprise, his head comes right up and he starts screaming again.
IF gets the tern to the boat, his companion nets the bird and covers it softly with a towel so it can’t get out of the net or bite someone, and IF pulls the fish up by hand and releases the 22-inch striper.

Now IF cuts the line loose from the tern and starts to put his hand around the bird’s body under the towel to release it, when the angry bird decides to firmly affix its bill on IF’s finger and won’t let go.

Since tern bites don’t hurt unless you try to pull the bird away, which could leave a cut, IF calmly asks his companion to take a photo, which he does, and then the bird releases his grip, leaves the boat and flies back to the flock chasing the fish as if nothing had happened.

The bird may not have enjoyed the adventure but IF had a happy face as both the tern and the striper were back where they belong.