I had fished plenty of times before I really started fishing about 12 years ago. For more than half of those years, my spring training consisted of heading to Sheepshead Bay for night bass on the Sea Queen, and traveling out to Staten Island for a charter with Capt. Frank Crescitelli and other local captains.
Each year I learned more and caught more. Starting in 2013 my spring training had a clear goal, an exact day when it was game time. That was the day of The Manhattan Cup. I had heard about it for a few years. All catch and release fishing for stripers and blues while competing against the area’s best captains and anglers for the ultimate bragging rights. Bigger than bragging rights though, would be fishing with at risk post combat veterans that deserved a day on the water more than myself. Every trip, every cast, every hookset, and every fish from mid-March until the first Friday morning in June was for one reason. To be ready, willing, and able to compete against the best and the bravest of any anglers on the water the day of the Cup.
The NY Bight and south to Shrewsbury in the spring is something else. Live lining, chunking and pencil popping 30-pound stripers isn’t something that just comes together. It’s mind blowing stuff to experience, and baffling to think of the skill set of charter captains that are consistently on the fish. I learned hard lessons and experienced epic catches during every spring season, and they were not forgotten as dozens of boats went full throttle in front of the Statue of Liberty on that June morning. When the start of The Manhattan Cup crackled across the radio, those hard lessons would give my team a fighting chance.
Since moving out of the city a few years ago for the east end of Long Island, the challenge has been figuring out patterns, tides, and offerings to target stripers and blues in the back bays. With increased pressure on the striped bass population, patterns I thought I had figured out the year before do not always hold true to the next year. Conjecture and stories of the good old days provoke thoughts of what fishing will be like in seasons to come. Hard data and science are what can lead to answers on how there can be epic seasons ahead. That crucial insight is made possible in large part to tagging. The Fisheries Conservation Trust of the Recreational Fishing Alliance in partnership with Gray Fish Tag Research and The Fisherman Magazine play an enormous role in our understanding of striped bass. During the tournament, every boat is
provided with tags. When these tags are retrieved, it is a treasure trove to researchers in understanding our resource. Just a few years ago, Jim Hutchinson reported some jaw dropping news when satellite tags deployed by The Fisherman and Gray’s were recovered. (https://www.thefisherman.com/article/born-to-run-hudson-river-to-canyon-striper/?region=long_island).
It’s about ten days until my efforts, anticipation, and adrenaline come together at Liberty Landing in Jersey City the morning of The Manhattan Cup. The anticipation though isn’t just about the fishing ahead for my team that day. It’s about the fishing, and the days, weeks, months and years after for the veterans participating. Hundreds of lives have been impacted for the better part of two decades of Cup. Participating anglers, and sponsors like The Fisherman Magazine and The Recreational Fishing Alliance, among others, are why this day has changed the lives of so many brave warriors. It’s truly a humbling experience and privilege to witness just over the course of a day what the experience does for men and women who willingly put our lives and freedom ahead of their own.
When the twin 300 Yamahas on Captain Adrian Moeller’s 31 Steiger BASS APPEAL start to throw her wake in NY harbor, I have a good feeling it’s going to be an epic spring day in the NY Bite. Hope to see you back at the dock to raise a glass to our shared passion and pride of our hometown fishery.
Registration is still open for The 2021 Manhattan Cup to fish on a boat donated and captained by top local captains or fish your own boat. More details are available at manhattancup.com or you can contact Mike Dean via email at email@example.com