The last week of July and the first five, or so, days of August were unseasonably cool and if you’ve ever wondered what triggers striped bass and other migratory fish to switch into bulk-up mode, it would seem that we now have an answer. The wind swung north and the humidity cleared like frosty windshield. There seemed to be an undeniable correlation between that wind shift and peanut bunker dumping out of the estuaries. It was impossible not to feel that change in the air. I love it when a weather event ignites a need to fish inside my mind. Those are the moments when I know that I am connecting with my instincts on a higher level.
Sometimes I hold it in, I don’t just come right out and say that I’m planning to fish when darkness falls. My wife is a teacher and I have a young daughter at home – they’re both home all summer, so I often get the synchronized eye-roll, when I make fishing announcements. So I got strategic. I made dinner that night, barbecue pork chops with homemade peach barbecue sauce, crispy cheddar potatoes with chives and simple blanched green beans from the garden. Then I suggested we go for ice cream and bring it down to the beach to watch the sunset. That’s quality family time, right?
We came to the beach and my eyes scanned involuntarily. And, yup, out about a mile, a big flurry of birds was piling down upon a blitz of unknown fish on unknown bait. The particulars were not important, what was important to me was that fish were inspired to feed. My daughter and I walked along the tiny estuary that cuts through the beach there—thousands upon thousands of 1-inch peanuts were filing out of the pond in the back, headed out to meet the unknown ocean. What I already felt was cemented in that moment. I HAD TO fish that night, it wasn’t even a choice anymore, it was a compulsion.
I am very into listening to my instincts and you will see a lot of ink given to that fact in these logs as my seasons and time working here progress. I knew where I wanted to fish, but I also knew that it meant a very long walk. I tried to think of other spots that might also produce good results, but I could not ignore the gravity of the long walk spot. So that’s where I went.
I know it’s odd for a 41 year old man to go to these lengths to fish, but I have no problem ignoring it. I hiked over a mile before even hearing the waves and when I finally stood in the waist deep salt under a moonless sky, every step I had taken already seemed to be paid for as the impact of being alone in a beautiful place washed over me—the silence, the rush of the waves, the perseids streaking across the sky.
Cast after cast was met with jolting proof of life in the waves as striped bass, inspired by the change in the weather, fed with abandon in the shallows. I didn’t see any bait in the bubbleweed, but I would have to assume, based on the way the fish were assaulting my lures, that there was something out there for these fish to compete over. I stayed more than four hours and lost count of the fish I caught after 30. No monsters were in the mix, but slot fish dominated the catch with a few up to 38 inches to keep things exciting.
As I walked back to my truck, exhausted and exhilarated from the experience. I began that whispered monologue, a self-pep-talk, egging myself on, convincing myself that I should push myself to come back. I collapsed into bed at 3:30 a.m. and woke up at 7:30. When I told my wife how the fishing was, all she said was, “What time are you leaving tonight?”
If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.