Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fall Striper Fishing , or Tales of Hardship and Woe : Part ??

I'm back from an expedition on new water with my usual partner in fishing-related crimes. It was almost a total flop , but I managed to get a nice Crappie on a Striper-sized bucktail. Not quite what I was hoping for , but it kept the skunk off of me and my buddy's newly rebuilt boat , and in it's own right the Crappie was a quality catch. It's no small feat to hit new water on a nearly maiden voyage , so it was all good. We'll get the kinks worked out and find the fish that eluded us this time.

And people say crappie like small bait...
We did have quite a lot of reminiscing to do , as we've been on an untested boat on untested waters before. It was how we both cut our teeth on landlocked Striped Bass , and indeed we spent about three months with our noses to a bitter cold grindstone during what would prove to be one of the coldest years here on the lake in recent memory - cold enough to cause a winterkill of shad and cause a massive fish kill that hurt the fishing more than we thought possible at the time.

We hung in there , though , and it's still one of the best stretches of fishing I've had in my life. If I were a paper chaser , we could have had enough citations to become certified guides , and I could have had my captain's license , but the paper isn't why I fish. I don't need a citation to remind me of the reasons behind what I do , or to remind me that I can be a total dumbass when I have a fish on the line. Yes , I freely admit to being a dumbass since most everybody who spends enough time on the water will have those kinds of days. My bouts with it pale in comparison to the overachievers we shared the water with.

As we launched one morning back in December of '03 , my buddy noted that the air temperature was 12 degrees F , a sweater day for a Striper fisherman if there ever was. I was leery of it , but we went anyway. Fish were everywhere , stacked up and blasting bait. That alone will make you do stupid things. The water temperature at the surface was a balmy 34 degrees , as indicated by questionable electronics , but no ice. The ice was on everything that the water touched.

The deck of my boat , especially the front , was covered in a thin layer of ice that would turn even the biggest patches of roadway black ice into proud parents. We soldiered on , after a few slippery steps we were on the boat and headed upstream on a mission to net shad. People that have fished with me will know , but netting shad meant braving the front deck , she with the icy stare. I persevered and started throwing the net , which was freezing in my hands and blasting ice everywhere with each throw. I eventually had to start dunking it in the lake periodically to limber it up. It was as cold as the nipple on a witch's tit (whatever that means) , and putting the net in my mouth for each throw was like licking frozen fish eyes. I was in a special place in my head , though , and it didn't matter. I pirouetted my way to a dozen big shad , with the grace of a professional ice skater on the frozen tundra that was the deck of my boat. It was time to fish.

That's important for a few reasons. When it's that cold I usually wear at least the bibs of a bright yellow pair of Grundens. You know , the kind that the Mrs. Paul's or Gorton's Fishermen wear? They keep water and fish slime , fish guts , along with various and sundry cold water fluids off of your clothes. Love em when I need em , but they aren't something I sit around in. They usually get swapped out for insulated coveralls to go over my several other layers of clothes. Then I mount the chair on the front deck like a gymnast on a pommel horse , and I'm ready to fish.

We shot out into the main channel of the lake. Fall / Winter Striper fishing is a brutal affair , done on the main lake , out of the coves and into the wind. They stack up on the river channel , suspended anywhere from 12 to 25 feet deep , so we focus on sharp drop-offs and points which usually works out quite well. Fishing deep with live bait is a lot different than what most people think. Sure , it's boring at times , but I still get antsy when I hear a rod flex in the holder or here a bait clicker rev up. It's a big fish style of fishing , so it can make you nervous when you have 6 or 7 baits in the water on as many rods , fishing in schools of several hundred fish.

Hand warmers and toboggans in place , I tucked in for the long haul. Rods were set , and so was I until a fellow dumbass came flying down the lake in his  30 foot cabin cruiser at an ever increasing clip , trying to get it planed out , and passing about 20 feet off of my port side. Springing in to action , I get my boat turned hard to port in the nick of time , headed bow first into the waves this idiot made. Like a scene out of "The Perfect Storm" , the Gun Boat rode heroically up the face of the wave , and began a smooth descent down the back side , reaching a point of no return where the second wave in the set broke over the gunwhales at the bow , and into my lap. I shot out of my seat like a rocket and cussed that man , his boat , his mother , his wife and her extended family. I questioned his morals , his belief in God , his relations with his pets , and the sanity of anyone dumb enough to sell him a boat.

Screw that guy , it still makes me mad almost a decade after the fact.

Wet coveralls will eventually freeze into a type of insulating ice sleeve around your calves and ankles. I dried out , and I was ever so thankful for a comparatively warm sun overhead until i did. We even managed a few fish , but I couldn't tell you much more than that they were average. I was a man possessed with a need to catch fish, and I hung in there. I wanted it bad.

How bad do I want it now? Not so much , but damn it was fun when I did.

Not quite cold enough yet.

Have a good week!


  1. What's colder - A well-digger's ass or a witch's tit? Sounds like a memorable trip netting Shad!

    1. Let me know if you find out which is colder , I don't even have a remote guess due to my severely limited experience with both.

      Netting shad is always fun.


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