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In the end, I decided on a half day trip to the CTR for stripers. Had a lot of fun on Monday catching them on top, and was looking forward to an encore. Knowing I had to be home before 12:30, for a tele-medicine visit with my vascular surgeon, I was looking at 2-1/2 driving time wrapped around a 5 to 5-1/2 hour fishing day, but still felt like it was worth it.
I wasn’t so sure about that after I went more than hour on the water without so much as a hit. Having just finished fishing along the edge of a shallow flat at my third stop of the morning. I put down the topwater, and more out of frustration than the hope of catching something, picked up the spinning rod with a jig and Fin-S Fish on it (still tied on from my end of the day switch-off on Monday), turned around and fired a long cast toward the main channel.
The jig and plastic hadn’t sunk a foot before I felt the tic on the line. Set the hook for the first time, and felt both weight and relief. Better yet, the 20″ schoolie that I brought in turned out to be the first of 18 on consecutive casts. Every one of them came closer to the surface than the bottom. Usually, a lot closer, as I was only counting the jig down to 2 or 3 before giving it a couple quick twitches and beginning a steady retrieve with the rod tip held high.
After that initial flurry, it wasn’t a fish every cast, but the action was pretty steady for nearly two hours, just working my way back and forth along that breakline. Mostly, I was casting towards the channel (where I’d marked a lot of bait earlier, as I was approaching the area) but as the tide got a little higher, I caught a few casting back toward the edge of the shallows, too.
At some point, the plastic bait on my jighead came in with a bunch of slices that almost went all the way through.
Bluefish? Nah. Too early. But maybe, I guess.
I reached in the box for another pre-rigged bait in the same (5.75″) size and color (Ice Shad), and found one that I’d set up on a little 3/16 ounce head after Steve kicked my behind fishing really light on a mid-winter trip. As close to the surface as I was getting all my action, I figured that might prove even better.
And it didn’t.
The average size of the fish I was catching showed a marked improvement with the lighter head. I theorized that bigger fish were higher in the water column, and the more numerous smaller fish deeper. None of them seemed to want it moving fast, and with the slow retrieve the fish seemed to respond best to, the half-ounce head got under the better quality bites sooner than the three-sixteenth head. At least that’s the theory I came up with, when most of the fish I caught after changing to a lighter head were closer to 23 than 20, while there were a lot more sub-20 inchers in the mix prior to the change.
That’s the “It did” part of the equation. How does the “It didn’t” part fit in?
Well, every now and then, I would turn and cast back toward the shallow shelf. Not onto it, as I’d worked my boat position farther out towards where most of the action was coming from. On one of those casts toward the shelf, I hooked a much more stubborn fish. Aware of just how flimsy the hook on that light head was, I played the fish as gingerly as possible, and enjoyed a lengthy battle, but when I brought what I judged to be a 33 incher to the boat and reached out with the gripper, and the fish came up with the boatside surge and dive routine, the barbless, light wire hook on the light head opened and the fish swam away and missed its opportunity to become an internet star.
Admittedly, 33 inches isn’t huge and it was just an educated guess anyway. But it was definitely my largest striper of what’s been a fat-girl-free spring striper season for me. I’m tempted to add “so far” to that last sentence, but for me, the spring season ended when I put the boat on the trailer late yesterday morning, so there’s no chance I’ll get a bigger one for quite a while.
The trip and my season didn’t end with the loss of that fish though. Yes, I took the pliers to that hook, bent it back into position and continued to catch fish on it. Any other head I had that light would have been a similarly light wire hook with the barb mashed down anyway, so I didn’t see much benefit in changing it.
It wasn’t too long after that though, that the bite tapered off, and the time between bites stretched way out. At one point, I went what seemed an eternity without a bite after the fast action I’d been getting. Not sure, but in retrospect, it might have only been 5 or 6 minutes. In any case, I was thinking more about where I would try next than about the cast I was working when I got hit again, and landed fish #48 for the morning.
I made a few more casts, but pulled up stakes and headed across the river not long after that. It wasn’t quite 10AM. It had been a hell of a two hours of fishing, but that bite was definitely over.
I was driving across the flat on the other side of the river, when I recognized my buddy Rick’s boat. I stopped, dropped the electric motor and proceeded to fish my way toward him, to compare notes on the morning. This was topwater country, so I picked up the rod with the unweighted, 7.5″ Slug-Go. On the first twitch of my third cast, the surface exploded and I hooked up.
The striper fought way, way harder than its 30″ size merited, including making a complete circle around the boat before I got it in. When I reached for it with the gripper, I was a little disappointed in its size. The way it fought, I was thinking upper 30s until I actually got a look at it. By the time I was swinging it aboard, I wasn’t even sure it was a slot fish, so 30″ came as a bit of a relief when I laid it on the board.
Rick, it turned out, never even saw me or knew I caught that fish as I was approaching him. Everybody else must have though, because by the time I landed it, it was an awfully crowded spot in the middle of a huge flat.
I spent the next 3/4 hour or so trying my best to get one more fish. I’d much rather finish on 50 than 49. But I was working my way in the general direction of the ramp as I did so, and never had the opportunity to swing on another bite. I was on the trailer and gone by 11:05.
Oh — and about that fish that shredded my bait and led to me changing to the lighter head that turned out so productive… Yeah, as suspected, it was a yellow-eyed-devil. Steve sent a pic of Zig with the first of the two blues he caught while I was driving home.