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Fish on: Saved at the Ruins

DEBBIE WEAVER PHOTO Not many fish, but our columnist and his party were happily surrounded by a group of inquisitive seals near Gardiners Island.

Our columnist and his party were happily surrounded by a group of inquisitive seals near Gardiners Island.

I am not even going to mention how lousy the fishing continues to be because it is not my fault that the weather has been so totally uncooperative for the better part of two weeks.

So there. Glad I didn’t mention it.

The winds blew with surprising gusto from every compass direction and often switched in two or three directions on the same day. I’d climb from my bed at first light and peek out my front window to see if Coecles Harbor was calm and the skies clear.

Occasionally the two might mesh for maybe an hour. Sneakiest of all was fog that closed down a good part of several days with dense blankets of wet, cold clouds.

Our upstate family arrived at the start of the bad weather and was here for most of it. Our daughter Debbie and her husband, Dean Weaver, had planned to be here as summer was supposed to arrive to warm them after a long and snowy winter near Buffalo.

Dean loves to fish here since the fish are much larger and cantankerous when hooked.

Debbie likes fishing but is really more interested in taking photos of the fisherman catching the big ones, jumping fish or sea creatures.

Dean and I made two trips out but after hours of casting had only one or two small fish to show for it. He made a quick business trip to Chattanooga and missed nothing here. The day after he returned, finally, we had a day that looked like we could go as far as Plum Island or even Gardiners for a change.

The tide wasn’t going to be great at either place but at least the weather was clear, the winds were light and there was no rain in the forecast.

At about noon on June 21 the three of us started our last-chance trip, heading to Plum. As we ran across Gardiners Bay we saw few boats fishing. I also noticed what appeared to be a fog bank way to the east between Fishers and Gardiners islands. In about 20 minutes we were at Plum and Dean and I started casting our plugs around the rocks under the lighthouse where the stripers normally live.

We couldn’t stay near Plum long since the incoming tide was just ripping where we were casting. We were moving at about 5 to 6 knots, way too fast to work our lures properly.

We pulled out of the Gut and headed east, trying the rocks just east of the opening to Plum Harbor when we ran into young Struan Coleman out in his skiff. We were chatting a bit about the lack of fish when he mentioned he’d just come over from the Ruins off Gardiners and saw no fish but a group of harbor seals. That information got Debbie’s attention and she wanted to see the seals.

That fog bank I noted earlier came right at us as we headed toward the Ruins. In five minutes we were in the middle of it. I cut back on the RPMs, got the GPS aimed right at our target and motored on. We noted that the fog bank was only 30 feet high and the sun shone down on us as we moved along, which is very unusual for fog around here.

After a 15-minute trip, the Ruins popped out of the thick fog 80 yards away, initially looking in the mist like a tropical island with a sand beach topped by palm trees.

As we got closer to the structure we started to see a few inquisitive seals craning their necks and within five minutes they had all congregated in the rocks on the northeast part of the place. Hard to believe, but I counted more than 25 of them of all sizes. An accurate count was difficult since they kept slipping under the water and reappearing nearby.

They had no interest in coming closer than 100 feet of us. But they weren’t afraid of us either, cavorting and showing off as Debbie worked her camera at high speed.

The fog burned off so we could see Gull and Shelter islands again. We decided we should call it a day with no fish but a neat ending to our trip.

If you have family or friends out fishing and the day is not going well, I suggest stopping by the Ruins if you’re in the vicinity. The number of seals is amazing, they’re not spooked and will stay nearby to let you take photos or whatever.

Two rules if you go: Do not feed the seals; it is illegal. And have someone in your party always watching the water near the boat when you drift along because there’s a multitude of large rocks around the Ruins that could damage hull or propellers if you hit one hard enough.