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Fish On: A fishing tale

Some of the recent fishing has been good for anglers who have fixed their sights on bringing filets home for the grill.

Most are bottom-fishing with bait to catch porgies, sea bass, an occasional fluke and even a bluefish or two that happens to blunder into the baited hook. There’s a lot to be said about a freshly grilled filet on a warm summer’s eve, and the hunt for bottom fish is often relaxing and rewarding to someone who really wants the fish for the fire.

But I’m much more excitement-oriented.

Almost all of my fishing is zeroed in on where the sport fish are hiding or feeding and catching them on light tackle.

I’m addicted to the sudden splash a 10-pound bluefish makes as it attacks my surface plug with murder in the eyes. The fight is always long and hard and something to remember with the fish jumping, trying to disgorge the hook.

After the initial craziness it goes into the circle mode around the boat trying to pull away. If it frees itself from the hook, one of the other bluefish in the school that has been circling the hooked fish often grabs the lure as it floats to the top and the party starts again.

The same excitement takes place when my companion and I are fishing for striped bass. Nothing is more gratifying than hooking, fighting and landing a 5- to 25-pound striper, taking a few photos and releasing it, basically unharmed, so it can perpetuate the species while it grows to an even larger size. In the fall, the third assassin in the group, “Fat Albert” (false albacore) joins the mix.

If you want to enjoy the speed (like 25 mph on the early runs away from the boat) and feel the power from a streamlined torpedo-shaped 10-pound fish hooked on a flyrod or light spinning rod, get ready.

They’re supposed to be here by September.

The difference between the sport fishing crowd and the those that want the filets is that none of the former are catching anything much except for 20-inch long blues, and not many of them.

In addition, the striped bass are not anywhere near our Island, or nearby, for that matter. Trip after trip has produced practically nothing for the casters, like the two trips I made this week.

The first was on a day with light breezes that I made with Captain McConnell at the helm of his boat that took us to Plum. The water was relatively clean, but we didn’t get a single strike as we made casts along the shore from the Lighthouse all the way to Pine Point.

When we fired up the engine and headed to the “Parade Grounds” part of Plum, we saw a few small bass silhouetted against the sand. After about 200 casts we had landed six of the monsters, each with sizes ranging from 14 to 21.5 inches — far from keeper size. There were no seals and no bluefish so we called it a day.

Two days later, under similar conditions, I fished the north side of Little Ram Island thinking I would see a few fish in clear water. But the water was discolored, full of weeds and almost empty of fish. I say “almost” because on one of the 150 casts I made I had a soft rubber tail of a lure neatly cut off. And not another hit.

With that gloomy report I can only wish the bottom fishing crowd continued good luck and the sport fishermen the start of good luck.

I want to pass on a true “Fishing tale” that might give the sport fishermen some hope. I dug back into my daily fishing files and found a short report about a trip I took off Montauk on July 13, 2005. Most anglers never get a chance to cast a fly to feeding bluefin tuna, much less land one, and I landed two on that day.

Even more impressive to me is that I landed them on a medium weight flyrod (a 10 weight) instead of a heavier 12 weight. I was really outgunned with the 10. Here are the notes I made after returning home that day:

“I got a call last night from Guide Ernie French who confirmed that small bluefin tuna were feeding about 2 miles off Montauk Point and could be caught on flies.

I met him and by 8 a.m. was casting into fast moving schools of bluefins that were leaping clear of the water just west of the Point. I hooked a 22-pound fish on a 10 weight fly rod at 8:30 and finally took his picture at 9:15. I hooked a 25-pound fish at 9:30 and landed him 45 minutes later. They hit large chartreuse clousers flies and made spectacular runs before settling down to a long vertical battle and recovered quickly when released.

By the time the second fish was returned to the water we only had an hour to chase the schools before the tide quit and the bluefish took over the job of murdering the bait. I couldn’t get another good shot at the tuna again. They were heading south at too rapid a rate for me to cast a fly to them. Maybe next time …”

Fall Striper Showdown Fishing Tournament
The first Striped Bass Derby is scheduled for September 13-14 for the benefit of the Eastern Long Island Hospital Foundation.

It has all the trimmings of a well organized event and is sponsored by many of the best of our local marine suppliers and other organizations locally. All of the details can be found online at: elih.stonybrookmedicine.edu/events/FishingTournament