Photos by Tom Lynch
The violent head shake is a tell; it’s soon followed by a blistering run to the left, then another to the right. With $20 worth of wood and treble at the end of 4 feet of expensive fluoro, the fear of loss is very real as line dumps from the spool.
It rises to the surface, and the final hope of seeing a thickly-lined green fish roll over with a sweep of its broad tail is dashed by the gator blasting from the depths in an explosive aerial display; the monster is desperate to shake the plug from its toothy jaw.
Another blue meanie, and an angler’s exasperated sigh.
During the historic days of striper stock and recruitment from the ‘90s through mid 2000s, ol’ yelloweyes was the bane to any worthwhile striper man’s existence; $100 worth of tippet and floating line torn from the arbor in seconds driving fly guys away in disgust; and jetty jocks retreating to their buggies in search of tools to dislodge a buried treble earned from unhooking a thrashing blue.
Of course, everything that’s old becomes new again; most Northeast or Mid-Atlantic anglers were introduced to the joy of saltwater fishing with snappers along the pier taken on tiny pieces of spearing beneath a bobber or by tossing small spoons and bucktails into marauding schools of spring cocktails in the bay.
With the coastal migration of striped bass leaving some scratching their heads in frustration, others look to the arrival of the first racers of the spring with the exuberance of youth. Birds wheel and dive on a frothy blitz, boats running and gunning their way to the crime scene while surfcasters stand at the ready in hopes that the madness soon materializes within casting distance of a well placed tin.
Rummaging through old tackle boxes in search of unused plugs and lures from days long gone, barbs are flattened and rusted trebles replaced by single, inline hooks. An old popper is cast along a back bay flat or rockpile, gently twitched from time to time but left nearly motionless otherwise; it’s a rather instigating presentation aimed less at tempting a bite and more on angering a bluefish into attack.
In recent years, bluefish have begun their Delaware Coast invasion as early as March, with the April run in New Jersey putting anglers happily fishing shoulder-to-shoulder together along local inlets, and shops hustling to keep metals and terminal tackle in constant stock. Waves of fish pour into Western Long Island Sound soon after, followed by May runs of blues hot on the tails of the squid spawn along south Cape Cod beaches.
After diamond jigging choppers in the Race in late summer, the southerly migration of monsters begins again along Long Island’s south shore on out to the Mud-Hole where 20-pounders begin to appear with regularity on The Fisherman’s Dream Boat leaderboard. Who can forget the epic blitz at Atlantic Beach, NY on November 6, 2015, where Chris Vorhees caught and released a 25-1/4-pound bluefish on a Magic Swimmer, perhaps the largest bluefish ever landed by a surfcaster who’s smiling like a little kid for the cover photo of The Fisherman Magazine?
Well worth the risk of tossing a $15 lure, wouldn’t you say?
It’s a little like reconnecting with that buddy you haven’t seen in nearly a lifetime where it usually doesn’t take long to remember how much fun it was together from the very start of the journey.
“Bless you my old friend, it’s good to see you again!”
|Tom Lynch is a photographer, surf fisherman and owner of the Angry Fish Gallery in Point Pleasant Beach, NJ. Tom specializes in capturing intense sport fishing action, including airborne makos, tarpon, bluefish, stripers and other species. Tom and fly fishing legend Bob Popovics spearheaded a campaign to educate fishermen about best practices for releasing striped bass. The program morphed into the “Stripers for the Future” when the two fishermen teamed up with marine scientists from Monmouth University and UMass Amherst. Tom’s image credits include a myriad of sport fishing & leisure publications. His corporate image clients include Abercrombie & Fitch, Mattel, Hawaiian Airlines, Orvis, Stackpole Books, Guy Cotten, Shimano, Okuma, Stormr, and ATT. His imagery is housed in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Permanent Collection (Navigating the Void/Melinda Morey). Broadcast clients include: ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, CNBC, FSN, FiOS & MTV. Tom’s personal best catch is a 407 pound mako caught out of Manasquan Inlet. Going forward expect to see more of Tom’s extraordinary work in the pages of The Fisherman as we welcome him to our team.|