People like reading magazines and books about my favorite past time, probably “our” favorite past time, catching fish, not just “fishing” or casting around blindly for them. Like teaching a dog or even a kid to do something, there needs to be positive reinforcement of some sort to keep the student interested in learning the lessons.
I was not very strong in math, but at a young age I was studying and learning the various species of everything around that I could catch or observe. Being successful at hooking and landing fish involves studying their feeding habits, temperature preferences and all those kinds of factors that influences cold blood creatures. I knew the difference between a bluegill, a pumpkinseed and red breast sunfish, a leopard frog from a pickerel frog, because it was interesting and probably much easier than practicing long division in grade school. To a mathematician solving a problem is as satisfying as catching a trophy class fish is to those of us who partake in the “fine art” of out smarting scaly animals with a brain the size of a pea.
The trick to consistently catch your favorite species is to solve that basic riddle “where are they and what are they feeding on”. Answer these two basic questions and the odds of sticking the barb into something other than a snag are greatly improved. Sometimes even a fish with a full stomach can be goaded into striking, by triggering its strike instincts with a twitch of the lure at the right time. I learned this important lesson as a kid fishing in a small public pond near home that had fairly clear water, a deep center where the bass I chased could escape the summer heat. There were a couple of places where I could fish from shore and see fish swimming in the clear water on the narrow shelf that followed the shoreline.
There was one particular bass that had a torn maxillary bone that never grew properly, so it was like a brand. I caught that same bass at about a pound and a half, three pounds and the last time when it was long, skinny and weighed about five pounds. Each catch was a season or two apart and the fish struck the same colored plastic worm every time. That was when I realized fish have a good deal of reflexive behavior programmed into them because I saw that same marked bass take the lure the last two times. Maybe that pea sized brain forgot its previous captures after a few months. Over the years I’ve done that same sort of thing, catch the same fish that had a distinctive marking of some sort.
The most extreme was a striped bass a friend caught during the winter in the upper Thames River. It had an odd birth defect or injury, the tip of its snout was missing. A year or two later I caught the same fish miles away off of Fishers Island. It wasn’t much larger than when it was initially caught probably because of that missing snout, it couldn’t hold onto the food it needed to maximize its growth potential, though it was still alive and active in a school of larger fish, maybe even siblings that had probably fed and grown at a more typical rate.
As summer turns into fall and migratory species begin feeding their way towards their wintering grounds, anglers in many areas along the coast get a second shot at the fish they were catching when they were following bait northwards.
This region has had such extreme variations in weather ranging from unseasonably warm to chilly, heavy rains and high winds. For this reason it’s been difficult to predict what our popular game species will be doing now.
I enjoy fresh fish of any species, with the operative word being “fresh” not dead in a hot bilge or a cooler of ice that had been melted for hours. Conditions have been so messed up this spring that one day I went to a small local pond on a mission to catch a couple of bluegills to fillet for supper using a very light rod with a garden worm on a tiny jig as bait. This simple set up almost never fails but after an hour I got the message after seeing two fish come up and kind of kiss my bait and head back into the weeds I pulled some shrimp out of the freezer and made a cocktail sauce to dip them in that night for supper.
A friend who charters in the Boston Mass area was having problems due mostly to the high winds that followed the often heavy spring rains, though after a short delay of a week or so his trips were producing as expected. The point to be made is when he was having problems catching winter flounder, I couldn’t catch those darn bluegills a hundred miles to the south either. Weather conditions influence the ability to catch fish everywhere from the Atlantic to some protected little pond.
Summer weather has to some degree cured those woes. If we keep getting these large storm systems fall fishing will certainly be impacted if for no other reason other than safety and “comfort” on the ocean. No one enjoys getting beat up in big waves. Even if the fish are feeding well below it’s difficult to present lures and baits properly. In this area stripers and bluefish arrived a tad late but angler’s success has improved as this crazy spring weather transitions into summer.
Over the years I’ve released many legal sized fish of those species I target for many reasons. Sometimes simply because they are in great shape and I don’t feel like doing the knife work or there’s something else that needs to be done at home.
Another, popular late summer visitor, smaller members of the tuna/mackerel family, false albacore and bonito have become very popular among in shore, light tackle anglers who enjoy the raging fast runs that only a highly migratory species that can achieve with their stiff, hard cycle shaped tails.
I really enjoy fresh properly cared for fish. I’ve tasted just about every species in this region of the country and eastern Canada ranging literally from silver sides the kind used as fluke bait around this area to off shore behemoths. Most are fairly decent when prepared and cooked properly. During the summer and early fall nothing is better than fresh fish or blue crab, locally grown sweet corn, and a cold beverage.
Hopefully we don’t remain in this weather pattern that was set up this spring, all summer and fall. The hot weather that has replaced the cool, wet windy spring conditions we’ve had will help providing there are some breaks in the form of storms and cooler air occasionally blowing in from the north or some us will be melting like the Wicked Witch of the North in the Wizard of Oz before things cool off in a few weeks.