I made my way out to the Shoal around 4:45 tonight. Low tide was 2:30, so I was surprised to find somewhat slack conditions. I must have hit it just right, because by 5 o'clock the boat began to swing around with the incoming tide. It did not take long to boat my first fish, a nice fat 20 inch fish. Up until tonight, fall fishing had been a real bummer. Between the wind, rain, and pesky trollers, I had not caught a fish over 18 in a month. So suffice it to say, I was pumped when the next blowup resulted in an even fatter 22. Just off the bow, I could see a nice slick forming. I had the shoal to myself and I am anchored within casting distance of feeding big guys...NICE. My next blowup resulted in a hefty 26 that I was barely able to swing over the gunnel. This was followed by a 24 and three more 26's that had my heart jumping. The blowups and dance's that followed were spectacular. If only my damn Go-Pro had power!!!!!. Every plug fisherman I know has told me that bigger plugs catch the bigger fish, so it was time to break out the big Zara Spook in black with a yellow head. I have had that sucker in my tackle box for as long as I can remember but have never had a situation that Papa Dogg could not handle. After three 26's in a row, Papa was a hurtin' pup. His back hooks were all mangled and I could barely hear him mumbling "please put me in coach". I tied the Spook to my slightly studier Med-Heavy St. Croix and cast with the wind towards a beautiful 30 foot "bathtub"flat slick. I never even got a chance to start my walk when something massive whacked the spook 5 feet in the air and tail slapped for good measure. Whoa. Ok, so now I am shaking. I "walk the dog" maybe two steps and wham, it was big fish-ON. Tail slap, tail slap, tail slap, and the ZZZZZ went my drag. The fish was clearly in control for a minute or three, but she quickly tired and swam gently into my outstretched net. It took a while to get a the hooks out and untangle the net, but I was able to get a quick picture and get this fat 28 back in the water safely. Since I practice CPR, it is rare for me to use a net. With two sets of treble hooks and a twisting fish, I have had several fish die when it took too long to get them free. Usually, I will just swing the fish over the Gunnel. This was my first "net fish" in 2 years. I know there are lots of guys on the bay who routinely boat 28's or bigger, but they are typically live lining, trolling, or light tackle jigging deeper waters on the Eastern Shore. I can assure you they are not working a topwater plug in 3 foot of water on the Western shore. A 28 on the Shoal is a rare and treasured thing. There were two guys trolling nearby whom I suspected had watched me net the fish since they changed course and headed my way. It took a while, but I was finally reloaded and ready to go. As I moved to the bow of the boat the trollers had closed the gap to maybe 50 yards and were heading right for the slick. Just as my "Hail Mary" cast hit the water I had the greatest blow up and tail slapping extravaganza of my 25 years of fishing the Shoal. My drag was screaming as this beast slashed across the water for all to see. I heard the trollers exclaim "wow look at that". Those that know me, know I do not like trollers. It's not just that they scare off the bigger fish, which they most certainly do, its that they are missing the whole fishing experience. When a 30 inch Striper explodes on a plug, its just you and the fish. You did that. You tricked that seven year old fish, who has successfully migrated up the coast to Maine and back, five times, that your plug is a wounded baitfish. You did not fool him with the real thing like bait fishing or have the boat catch the fish like trolling. The most incredible thing is that you get to witness the the initial attack and the fight in its entirety. So it's less about not liking trollers, and more about wanting them to experience the joys of Plug fishing. I tried real hard to maintain that brotherly love as they glided through the slick and ended my best night in 25 years. Oh well it had to end sometime. A 20,22, 24,26,28, and a 30 all in one night. Would that next cast have been a 32 or 34?
who cares. That is fishing and I just plain love it.