Fish On: Secret agent fisherman

COURTESY PHOTO A new device is being tried to catch more fish. Details revealed below.
A new device is being tried to catch more fish. Details revealed below.

I wish that I could start by saying that last week the fish were just jumping into boats and they were all huge. I also wish I could say the water was flat, clear, cool and calm but it just didn’t work out that way.

Most of the week the air temps were approaching 90 degrees in the afternoons. Water temperatures were near 80 at the highest and the wind blew in the 15 mph range every afternoon, making long rides to distant places uncomfortable. And for all that, the fish were still not there or anywhere except for brief periods of time. It took patience and lots of casting to even get them to move at the lures.

I made a long trip out to Plum Island in mid-week on a calm afternoon, spending more than four hours in the blazing sun scouting around to find a fish — any kind of fish — to ascertain that there were some still alive. I put 25 miles on the boat that afternoon, fished all around Plum with terrible results. I started at the rocks under the lighthouse and caught lots of weeds but didn’t get a bite.

I went past Piney Point and tried that whole expanse of beach, over a mile, and found only one spot, which was all of 50 feet wide, where there were some fish. I could see a nice school of about 30. They were 20-inches long, silhouetted against the sand in the bright sun. I caught two of the little devils on consecutive casts. As soon as I released the second fish back in the water, the school was gone.

I battled my way along the far end of Plum that overlooks Little Gull Island to the east. I saw a few seals, who must be starving from a lack of fish in their diets, and went around to the back side of the Island where the water was clear. I fished hard there, catching several varieties of sea grass. The only bites were from a smaller version of the greenhead horse fly.

They are friendly-looking little cusses that land on the back of your legs and ankles and steal as much blood as they can get before you realize they are there. If one of them didn’t fill up on the first attack, it would go right back to the same exact spot and finish the job. If you were quick enough to swat with your hand or hat, there is a neat splash of blood which, I ultimately deduced, was my own.

I abandoned that spot fairly quickly and fished on the Long Island Sound side of the island. The tide was rushing and the water rough so I went to the end of the island behind the lighthouse and caught nothing.

I did, however, create a pile of dead fly carcasses on my boat’s foredeck where I stand to cast. I finally conceded the territory to the flying monsters and drifted along on the strong current in the Gut trying to figure out how to get back on track and get some fish on board.

There were no blitzes on the surface or in the Gut on any of my last three trips to any of the islands — Plum, Little Gull and Gardiners — and few birds flying over schools of bait. I was doing way too much reconnaissance and not enough catching and I decided to finally break out a secret weapon.

I’ve been working on a surveillance device that would transmit a signal to me when “fishy activity,” such as wheeling and diving birds or splashes caused by feeding fish are in the weapon’s view. With the new found reliability of tiny radio transmitters and the optics in our cameras and other sensing devices, I figured that if I could find a place where I could put a device to look for fish movements I could capitalize on it.

If the device let me know something was going on, I could get there in 20 minutes and have a lot more fun catching than searching.

I decided the logical place for the device would be at Piney Point at Plum Island, which has a 180 degree perspective. I originally thought of a drone, but figured that security folks on Plum would blast it out of the sky. In addition, the drone would have to be in the air all the time to be effective.

So I decided to try an item that would not attract any undue attention from the authorities and put it in a spot where it can easily be seen but ignored (see photo above). I installed all of the optics, mini-computers and communications devices this past weekend and tried it for a while on Little Ram.

No one blinked an eye at the device while it notified me of the presence of activity in the water from a school of bunkers and of snappers jumping in the harbor in its line of sight.

Last Sunday night I put it out on Piney Point. It’s working just fine. I haven’t been monitoring it as much as I should, but it’s there. Each time I turn it on I see something new, including some fish action. I’m going to put it on every day for the next week and I’ll let you know how it works out.