Fish on: Staying happy in all seasons

LARRY WINSTON

LARRY WINSTON

Greetings from an unusually warm and sunny Bonita Springs in southwest Florida.

Fish On has been here for about a month getting organized, and wanted to pass along a couple of “happy things” before Christmas.

The first is that I’ve had luck catching largemouth Florida bass from local ponds near our condo. I haven’t headed to the Everglades or Lake Okeechobee yet for the monster bass that live there, but as the temperatures drop out of the 80s in the next week or so, those places are in my plans.

Recently, I celebrated a birthday and was surprised with a visit from one of our three daughters, Debbie Weaver, and our granddaughter Danielle, who flew in for the occasion. They planned it so well that they just missed the first snow of the winter in the Buffalo area where they live, which I believe was the plan all along.

We did some airboat riding, photographed some alligators, herons and other fauna and Danni and I got to do some bass fishing. We headed to a local pond and after a few minor snags she was back in mid-summer form. In the short time we fished, Danni managed to land five bass on her spinning outfit with the deadly black rubber worm as her lure. While none were over 3 pounds, it couldn’t have been a better trip and the photo with her wide smile will vouch for that!

The next happy thing I wanted to mention also had to do with big smiles. A recent issue of the Long Island edition of the Fisherman magazine has a photo of a gigantic grin on the face of fellow by the name of Chris Voorhies as he hoists a bluefish he caught surf fishing at Atlantic Beach earlier in the month.

The fish weighed a whopping 25 1/4 pounds and will probably be confirmed as the New York State record for the species and also may be the largest bluefish ever taken from the surf. The photo had the lure still in the fish’s jaw and it was an all white, soft plastic “jerkbait” like the “Fluke” baits I talk about frequently, and which was fastened to a large, single hook jig head for easy casting in the surf.

Evidently, for several days before and after the fish was caught — and released, by the way — schools of 20-plus-pound bluefish had been making casters happy (and tired) as had an influx of striped bass chasing schools of bunkers onto the beaches. Evidently, these gigantic bluefish and the large cohort of good-sized stripers had been hiding somewhere off shore until they were convinced I was gone for the season.

There is some very good news about the long-term potential for better striper fishing ahead. Until late fall of this year, the only bright spot in the striped bass scenario had been that there was a
pretty good group of four-year-old bass measuring 22 to 23 inches hitting our lures but very few any larger.

These fish were from the “Class of 2011,” which was the result of a great spawn measured by fish biologists that year, and those fish are starting to make their presence known and will soon be spawning themselves.

Also, both Maryland and Virginia had excellent results from their 2015 annual striped bass surveys, which is great news for us since most of the bass we catch are hatched in that area. In 2015, Maryland reported the eighth highest number of juvenile stripers caught in history, with a reading of 24.2 juveniles per sample, about double the long-term average of 11.1.

The Virginia samples were not as strong but were above the long-term averages so, with reasonable luck, the Class of 2015 will be a good one and provide steady fishing for us in about four years.

If you want learn more about this interesting and very important story, check out news.maryland.gov/dnr/2015/10/13/maryland-striped-bass-juvenile-index-is-eighth-highest-on-record-2/

Christmas: It’s just around the corner and all fisherfolk in your family can really use some new gear. I’ve come up with a short list of inexpensive items that might make a big difference in 2016. Check Google using the brand names I am giving you so you can figure out where to shop, what they look like and cost.

So, here are my picks to click:

Lure: I think everyone who uses a spinning rod should have a couple of packages of Zoom Flukes,” soft plastic jerk baits, 5 inches in length and in the color “white pearl.” They are my number-one “search lure” for stripers, bluefish and even false albacore. They’re easy to rig, very effective and come in packages of 10 for under $5.

Match them with a package of Mustad Ultra Point Power lock plus weighted hooks in size 4/0 that will get the flukes out to the fish and cost about $6.50 for a package of three.

Rod and Reel: I continue to recommend the 7-foot rod and reel combos in medium heavy offered by the Penn Tackle Company at about $120. They are currently offering the rod with a Penn Battle II reel and I would recommend the size 4000 reel with this rod. If you want to go whole hog, add a spool of 14 pound braided line made by either Power Pro in dark green or yellow, or Berkley Fireline in white.

This great outfit is for beginner or experienced fishers alike.

Gripper: Everyone knows fish are pretty slippery when they come out of the water and are very difficult to hold while you are trying to unhook them or take a photo. Bluefish are especially obnoxious about the whole process but fluke, striped bass, false albacore, weakfish and even seabass have teeth, so I try to take the work out of it with one of the many lip-grabber tools on the market.

Most of them have a scale included in the device and all clamp on the lower lip of the fish for easy handling. The quality leader is called a BogaGrip and starts at about $125, but there are several models offered by Berkley or Bass Pro shops at prices all the way down to $20. In my opinion, having any one of them is better than not having any on board.

Have a safe and happy holiday season and I’ll report again soon.

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