Featured Story

Fish On: Battling the really big ones

I couldn’t get my boat out for at least a week due to waves that kept insisting on coming over the gunwales.

On May 30, I finally caught a flat, calm day and headed out at noon for a quick hour’s fishing. I finally got back at 3:30 and damn near needed help getting up the boarding ladder to my dock since I was so tired from battling large fish on light tackle.

I’d gone to a spot (I’ll tell you about later) and on the seventh cast caught an aggressive bass of 22 inches that put up a terrific battle in the cold, shallow water.

On the next cast I landed a clone to the first fish and thought the action would never end. I then made another 60 casts without a hit until losing another bass next to the boat which was about the same size as the others. I was using a light spinning rod with 10-pound test braided line and a yellow popper so the smaller bass gave me a good tussle on the light rig.

At about 1 p.m., I slowly motored the boat out toward a submerged sandbar (I’ll tell you where it is shortly) when I picked up on several barely discernible swirls about 50 yards away followed by a parade of small triangular fins, very similar to those of small sharks.

I’d seen that type of activity before on calm days and the fish were always either menhaden (bunkers) or bluefish. I made a cast at one of the spots where I had seen the activity. As soon as the plug hit the water a 10-yard square section of the area around my lure erupted with fish cutting streaks on the surface of the water aiming right at the lure to see who dared to intrude on their territory .

They immediately started to take turns trying to kill my lure, the interloper. Even though I still had a plug on with two treble hooks, which would usually hold them, they would slam into it, get hooked and then jump straight up in the air like a trout throwing the plug and crash back into the water.

They shook their heads like crazy while in the air often causing the fish to go one way and the plug 10 feet the other before it hit the water again. Since these were aggressive and annoyed fish in the 8-to-12 pound range who did not like being disturbed, as soon as the lure hit the water after being thrown there by one of those monsters, another tried killing it.

I finally got a really firm hook up with a fish of 9 pounds that took me over 20 minutes to land on the light tackle. I released that fish and switched fishing rods to one that was slightly stronger but with 15-pound test braided line so the battles were less one-sided.

That tackle switch helped me to bring 10 more bluefish to the boat over the next two hours, which is why I was so whipped when I got to the dock. I switched lures to larger ones that had a single tail hook on them and no trebles so that the fish could be released without bringing them into the boat. I could shake them loose next to the boat without touching them by using a dehooker.

That way they were released mostly unhurt but tired and my boat would not get covered with bluefish slime, scales and pieces of the live fish meal the blues had munched on before they ate the lure. Most importantly, by keeping them in the water I stood a much better chance of keeping all ten of my fingers away from razor-sharp bluefish teeth.

Without exaggeration, some of those fish I released at boatside were over 12 pounds and never gave up the fight, so I was happy to have seen them, fought them, caught them and released them unharmed for the next sport to take them on. The larger ones were so powerful that I even had a heavy duty single hook on a lure mostly straightened by a large fish trying to get away. I couldn’t do that to that hook with a strong pair of pliers, so you have some idea of the power of those fish.

The fish are coming to the Island in dribs and drabs so, first, make sure your tackle is up to the task of fighting very large fish that are mixed up with smaller fish at this time of year.

Next, you have to scout more to find some action since not all of the game fish are right where they can usually be found in the summer.

Oh, sorry, I’m out of space so I’ll have to wait to tell you where I was fishing this week in next week’s column.