The last few weeks have been excellent for surf fishing in Rhode Island and I have been devoting every possible shred of spare time and energy to taking advantage of it. This has meant losing a lot of sleep and feeling ragged a lot of the time. As I get older, I worry more about the consequences of losing sleep, I question whether I can handle it like I used to. But what I’ve found is that I actually feel my best when I am fishing hard, that fog of fatigue doesn’t last very long—it can be hard to wake up, but once I start my day I’m good.
Last week my buddy Mario was in town; he’s a Rhody guy but moved to California for a few years and took a two week vacation to fish his home waters. Mario is 24 years old and wholly obsessed with striped bass and surfcasting. We had a good laugh when we realized that my first plug building articles were published when he was 7, it became all too sobering for me when I realized that I was also exactly his age when those articles went live.
I had been on a good bite, so we headed for the spot and it was quickly apparent that the body of fish that had been there all week, was gone. I immediately felt the pressure of wanting to help my friend make the most of his transcontinental trip, so we headed for another location. I knew with the wind and tide we had a really good shot at another spot in the next town over. We hoofed it back to the truck and made the 30-minute ride.
As we walked out into the nearly-flat surf, every movement was accentuated by plumes of bioluminescent algae, commonly called ‘fire’ among surfcasters. It is not usually a good thing, but we tied on needles and did our best not to do more than simply retrieve the plugs. The bite was electric—nearly every bass we landed was between 20 and 24 pounds, and the fish were striking with the anger of a competitive bite. Numerous times, we saw pods of illuminated stripers turning to avoid us, it was really cool to see.
At one point I hooked a low 20-pounder that got into some trouble out there, I could feel that sickening grind of braid being pulled around a rock. I begged out loud for the fish to turn and – with some pressure – she did. I inspected my line and found no damage. On my next cast I hooked another solid fish, she ran at me and I raced to keep up, when she turned, my braid parted—evidentially, I didn’t check far enough down the line. Worst of all, that needle, made by my buddy Frank Goncalves, had been crushing fish for almost two weeks and I knew begging one out of him “in season”, would be tough—but it was the only one I had!
Fast forward to two nights later and I was back with Mario hoping for a repeat that didn’t happen. As we waited through the tide, casting and hoping, Mario asked if it felt like our lines were hooked together. I assured him that they were not. Then he reeled in the end of a long piece of braided line and said, “it looks like Samurai” and Samurai is the braid I use. We followed the line until it stopped in some spongy, marshy stuff with lots of bubbleweed in it. Mario yanked the line until it broke free with a huge gnarl of weeds. In the middle of that horrible mess was my needlefish. Apparently, the liberated bass swam off and buried its face in the marsh until it was able to scrub the plug off. I’ve often worried about the fate of fish that break off, at least this one was able to shed the plug quickly. And… for once, I also got my plug back.