Over the course of a lifetime of fishing, most fisherman can recall many memorable and even strange fishing experiences that occurred over the years. I’ve certainly have had my share, and some when I look back, even border on the unbelievable.
There was the tarpon I hooked in the Florida Keys that jumped up on the dock, threw my plug and jumped back in the water, leaving me and my nephew, Eric Simmons, in stunned disbelief. There was that 49-pound yellowfin tuna that took my plug in the Long Island surf, and a 5 or 6-pound rainbow trout that I actually landed with a tiny Quick-Clip, used to attach a fly to your tippet. Instead of the hook, the clip had somehow managed to penetrate the tip of the fish’s jaw.
Take the morning I took my three sons out of school for a few hours of striper fishing. My middle guy, Kit, who was in fifth grade at the time, was on a mission to bring a bass into his class for show & tell at 11 a.m. that morning. We had a good tide and there had been a fair number of fish around so I was pretty confident we could come up with a fish and get him back to school in time for show & tell.
Drifting live baits around the stanchions of the Robert Moses Bridge, we quickly put a couple of fish in the boat, but Kit was looking for something more impressive to bring into his class. I had been handing baited rods off to the kids, and was in the process of lowering a live eel down to the bottom when I felt a solid bump, bump, bump. I set up on the fish and it went berserk, fighting like no striper I had ever hooked. As line streamed from the reel, Paul reached for the rod. I hesitated for a moment, and God forgive me, but with visions of 50-plus pounder dancing in my head, I wasn’t about to surrender that rod, even to my oldest son.
Line continued to melt from the reel as the fish used the full force of the outgoing current in its headlong rush for freedom. I had Paul, who was 12 at the time, start the engine and steer downtide so that I could put some line back on the reel and avoid getting cut off by one of several other boats fishing the area. A few minutes passed and I was able to work the fish to the boat but was having a heck of a time trying to get him to the surface. Most big bass will come to the surface during the fight, but this one was not playing by the rules.
I fully expected to see a monster bass emerge from the depths as I eased the stubborn fish within view. First color, then the shape of the fish began to come into view. It can’t be I thought as what looked to be maybe 30 pounds of striped bass came to the surface. My heart sunk as visions of that giant striper were quickly washed away. As the fish was being lifted into the boat, I noticed the line running from the midsection of the fish and that there was no hook in the fish’s mouth. A closer look revealed the hook neatly tucked into its anus. When the fish hit the deck, the short shank live bait hook simply fell out.
Upon closer examination, there was no blood and no visible damage to the fish’s anus. The hook had simply settled into that little hole which resulted in one very pissed off striped bass. And while the disappointment with the size of that fish still lingers, it did provide another one of those “hard to believe” memories that will last a lifetime.