After finding big fish consistently for the better part of two weeks, my last two trips had resulted in zeros. Exhausted, both physically and mentally, I hiked back to the trail leading to where my bike was stashed and turned around to look at the water. Most likely bidding the area farewell for 11 months, this is one of those places that has an expiration date and my instincts were telling me it’s time had passed. I had ignored a nagging urge to fish a spot more than 30 miles away and now I felt like I had probably missed something. The following night I was just too tired to drag myself out into the surf and there were big deadlines looming for work.
The next morning I awoke to text timestamped 2:06 a.m. from my young friend Ben, 19 years old and learning the game the right way. There was a photo of a fat fish with a corresponding message that read, “Biggest of the night was 41 pounds, you should come my way tonight.” The next text below it was from my lifelong friend Alex, we’ve been tight since 8th grade and I know we’ll be friends forever, it read, “What’s your week looking like? I’d like to get on the boat, I have good reports, but not from the bay, let’s make a plan!” A short while later I had a text from Max who works at Fisherman’s World out in Norwalk, CT. He said, “The Western Sound is on fire right now, I’ve never seen it like this, there are so many 40-plus pound fish around right now it’s ridiculous!”
As neurotic as this makes me feel, it also makes me feel invigorated, alive…it makes me feel like I felt about fishing when I was 15. The excitement that flares up in my heart and my head burns so brightly it brings with it the very real danger of blinding me to all of the other things that I actually have to do. There was a time when I’d find a way to do all of these things and let my work and family life suffer as a result of my obsession, but – despite my attempts not to – I have matured. My wife tells me it happened after our daughter was born.
Instead, I’ll weigh and calculate, I’ll figure out where I can afford to carve out time and then match it up with the best option that fits into that time slot. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to catch all the fish that are showing up in big numbers at the exact same time right now. But this happens every year and I already know this.
The best thing a fisherman can do is learn to be happy for the other anglers he knows when they do well instead ingesting that burning bitterness known as jealousy. You have to remember that it’s only true that you missed out if you actually planned to go where the action was and you decided not to. As I sit here, thinking about all of the possibilities that might lay ahead, all I can think about is how lucky we all are that we have these fisheries to enjoy. And when thinking – specifically – about the striper fishery, I feel encouraged. I have to believe that the conservation measures we’ve adopted are working and, for the first time in many years, I’m optimistic about the future of the fishery.
As long as we continue to set limits that will protect these fish and that we set the right examples for how to ensure safe release, the future looks bright. We all have to work, we all have obligations that don’t include a rod and reel, so make sure to enjoy every second of those segments of time that you aside for yourself to go fishing.