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For many anglers it’s easier to replace one fishing habit with another than it is to call it quits all together, even if only temporarily.
By Toby Lapinski
Tags: inshore, surf, general, freshwater

As much as we hate to admit it, the seasons come and go. This applies to both the relationship between the earth and moon as well as those of our beloved fish. The highly anticipated spring bites eventually give way to the so-called summer doldrums, and before you know it the fall run is in full gear followed not too far behind by chilling winter weather. If you take too long to blink then the season, like the hot bite, can pass you by and there is little you can do to get it back so be sure to take advantage of things when they present themselves. This cycle repeats itself over and over again each year, yet every step of the way it almost feels as if I didn’t see it coming.

I have a difficult time calling an end to my open-water fishing season each year. Much to the chagrin of my wife, her frequent inquiries of “How much longer do you plan to fish?” or “When will your [surf] season end?” are almost instinctively answered with an open-ended response. Unfortunately this seems to do little to ease her questioning, but it’s similar to my almost inability to say goodbye to someone when I know I will not see them for a while. I’d rather say “see you later” than “goodbye” almost out of some strange, deep-rooted fear that goodbye to me feels so final.

Fishing is the same. Whether it’s calling the last cast of the night or of the year, I never truly believe with my heart and soul that it is the last one. So many times my last cast has resulted in another hour of casting—usually without anything to show for it—and almost every “last trip” ends up being the second or third to last. As I write this in the second week of December, my wife and son decorating the Christmas tree in the other room with the mind-numbing Disney Christmas Carols CD setting background music, I find myself checking the weather and tide forecast for my local late-season spot. The winds don’t look great for tonight, but next Tuesday sure looks good!

One way in which I cope with the end of the open-water fishing season is by supplementing it in recent years with ice fishing. Now although I grew up ice fishing almost as feverishly as I pursue fish in the surf, I all but gave up on it for a good ten-or-so-years. My interest was rekindled several seasons ago as I began hunting walleye—rather unsuccessfully so far—at the urging and following of my good friend and fishing partner, John. I now once again long for the tranquility and satisfaction to be had atop a frozen lake, albeit quite often now in the middle of the night.

In the time between the end to open water and the beginning of ice fishing, the addiction needs to be satisfied. Sure I can go cold turkey for a week or two after that eventual last cast, but when the itch needs to be scratched I find myself seeking new outlets. Past years have found me hunting sea-run trout, northern pike or sea herring, and this year the cold season staple, the white perch, has already begun to creep into my mind when I fight to fall asleep each night.

So as I make plans for the next few days to continue hunting striped bass, and maybe even sneak some time in to try my hand at a new target species, the inevitable passing of yet another open-water season slowly becomes more and more of a reality. The transition may not be smooth and seamless, but it is one which I must accept and come to terms with as part of the reality of being a fisherman here in the northeast.