Devoted readers of The Fisherman will know that we have been working with Gray’s Fishtag Research for the last few years, deploying satellite tags in the shoulders of striped bass with the hope of learning more about where they go and what they do. So far, all of the fish we’ve tagged have originated in New York waters and each one of them has made its own surprising twists and turns while towing one of these tags. Many of these tagged fish have run far offshore, which many readers have worried would be used as a way to explain ‘where all the stripers have gone’ a counterpoint to overfishing. Personally, it does nothing to change my mind I would argue that a portion of the population has always made runs offshore.
Even before I came back to work at The Fisherman full time, it has secretly stuck in my craw that these fish mostly originated from Raritan Bay with a few others at Montauk. I felt that this wasn’t painting a clear picture of what the stock, as a whole, might be doing out there in the mighty Atlantic. I voiced these feelings to my New Jersey counterpart, Jim Hutchinson, he listened and assured me that he believed a New England tag was not only a great idea, but was also something that we could make happen.
Not long after, an email came through inviting me to Zoom call with Bill and Roxanne from Gray Fishtag Research along with Jim, publisher Mike Caruso and Long Island editors Matt Broderick and Fred Golofaro. I sat at the computer and listened, I wasn’t expecting to interject at all. There was talk about tagging another striper off of New Jersey this fall and I kind of just gave in to the fact that it was going to be New York/New Jersey thing. But then Jim spoke up and suggested that I had something to add to the conversation. So I opened my mouth and heard myself say all of the things I detailed above. Bill and Roxanne listened and considered and made the decision right then that, not only would they like to tag a fish in New England, but also that they’d love it to be a shore-caught striper and they’d like ME to do it! I felt honored and wondered how quickly something like this might come together?
Roxanne hopped on and started firing questions at the panel, how long should she program the tag for, how soon could I catch a suitable fish, what was my address…? Before I knew it she was sending me a FedEx tracking number and asking that I be home to receive the package when it was delivered. That Friday, I had the little rubber, lightbulb looking thing in my possession, a $5,000 piece of sophisticated gadgetry, paid for by Pure Fishing and relying upon me to properly and successfully deploy it in a striped bass of suitable size within a fairly short window of time.
I think there’s a saying about jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire, well, I think I get it now. But fishing under pressure is something I have always loved to do, it’s why I have been pretty darn successful in surfcasting tournaments, I have a level of determination that can only be accessed when real pressure is applied. And I’m feeling that real pressure now and the motivation I need to make it happen.
Of course, the main objective is to deploy this tag into a suitable fish, and as I sit here writing this, we’re one day removed from the landfall of Tropical Storm Henri, there’s a lot of uncertainty that follows a big storm like this, but I’m going to follow my gut and meet the challenge head on. If I fall on my face, I will humbly place my tail between my thighs, board a boat and deploy that tag for New England. Feeling (almost) no shame.