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Fishing column: Caught in a slump

COURTESY PHOTO Our columnist's friend Peter Pettibone landed this beautiful striped bass last week in Peconic Bay.
COURTESY PHOTO Our columnist’s friend Peter Pettibone landed this beautiful striped bass last week in Peconic Bay.

I am beginning to feel like I play baseball for the Mets.

Like the Mets, I had an auspicious start to the season and was on cruise control catching more fish than I expected whenever I went out. I was able to jump into my boat on practically any tide and figure a way to bring a good number of fish to the boat in just a few hours. I’d hit one or two of my favorite spots and the fish would welcome me by trying to tear the rod out of my hands and, better yet, all of my guests were getting their share of the fish, too. I was coming in feeling refreshed with my success and was pretty damn smug about the way things were going.

Then, the weather got a little testy and the numbers of fish I caught slipped off a bit. I compensated by spending more hours on the water, trying to find out where the finny critters had decided to move. Suddenly, I found myself shut out several days in a row or just a sea robin to show for my efforts.

It’s not like I’m not trying. When I fish I don’t sit in my boat anchored or drifting and dragging bait along the bottom hoping for any kind of fish to eat it. My companions and I are active in our pursuit.We stand in the boat, which is slowly moving, either drifting or under the power of an electric trolling motor.

We make lots of long casts with spinning rods, retrieve hard plastic lures or others made of soft plastic or jigs with deer hair or feathers on them trying to convince fish that they are something to eat. Or, if the sun is high and waters are clear and we can sight fish, we use flyrods and flies to catch them. We move from spot to spot quite a bit, too. But none of that is working now.

To illustrate the depth of the slump here are a few excerpted notes from my log book for the most recent trips, totaling over 10 hours over three days.

June 10. Mike McConnell joined me for a pleasant run to Plum Island. There was a light southwest breeze, bright sun and high hopes. Wrong! We started at East Point and made the long haul along the beach and had no hits or see a single fish. We fished the rocky groins along the south side with no luck and nothing under the lighthouse. Without a hit in more than two hours —about 200 casts each — we headed back to Shelter Island.

We tried the back of Coecles Harbor and had a flurry of action from small bluefish, but hooked none. I had a big bluefish follow my plug and finally hit the Rattlin Chug Bug but didn’t hook up as it simply clamped down on the plug and the hooks didn’t reach anything soft enough to set up in. That was enough for both of us.

June 13. I got my butt kicked today. The weather was good with bright skies, no clouds and breezy. I was running the electric motor, looking for bass on the Coecles Bar and had seen nothing, so straightened the fly line coiled at my feet by making a cast into the freshening breeze.

As the line sailed out to the right, I looked down and saw a 5-pound bass laughing at me as it took off to the left. I headed to the bight at Mashomack and didn’t see a thing moving for 40 minutes until a bass sped by right under me on his way to Hawaii. I spied another hiding behind a rock and tried a cast, but I was too close so he spooked. I kept bumping into singles that appeared out of nowhere so I never got a good shot at them and a group of five smaller bass wouldn’t take my fly.

I did manage a very beautiful sea robin that took my fly so I was not shut out.

June 14. On a perfect tide to go to the back of Coecles Harbor I fished for an hour, but the weeds were floating everywhere and the wind was up, making the fishing hard. I stayed and made 135 casts covering most of the spot twice. I had one blow up on my plug early by a larger fish and another by a bunch of teeny boppers before I ended with a big “0.”

Even hard work doesn’t always pay off when you’re in a slump. None of the other anglers I questioned had done any better so my ego was bruised but not crushed by my lack of fish. That was until one of my local golfing friends, Peter Pettibone, told me he had enjoyed good fly fishing in Peconic Bay with a professional guide at the same time I was striking out all over the place.

See the photo above as proof. Way to go, Peter!