Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Fall Striper Fishing , or Tales of Hardship and Woe : Part 02

Pleasant looking , isn't it? I posted this over the weekend , Sunday I think , over on G+. It got a little attention , which isn't bad for a crappy cell phone picture. That's about all I have to show for my latest trip , unless you want to count windburn and an advanced case of sea legs. It was brutal on Lake X. And by brutal , I mean windier and rougher than any day I can remember in over thirty years of going there to fish. That's pretty telling , in that this is usually a fairly protected body of water , surrounded as it is by a section of the Appalachian Mountains.

I'll reference the Beaufort Scale here , for those of you who are unfamiliar with it. At a Beaufort rating of SIX (out of 12) "Long waves begin to form. White foam crests are very frequent. Some airborne spray is present." Of course , that's on the open ocean , right? Not so. It can develop on inland waterways , provided wind speeds reach the required 22-27 knots. Thankfully , the size of Lake X kept us well under the 9 to 13 foot seas that would have developed in the North Atlantic.

We were , however , blasted with "airborne spray" , which was only worsened by driving into the wind amidst 2-3 foot whitecaps , in a small bass boat. It was snotty and getting worse , so I'll admit to a rare uneasiness on the water. I'm not proud to say it , but it drove me off the water. After my usual partner in crime and I were back ashore , and devoid of life jackets and about 5 layers of camouflage hunting gear repurposed for fishing , we had a few moments to reflect. First I wondered aloud whether donning so much camo is how stories about people vanishing without a trace get started , only to remember the tale of my batteries during the year of the Striper here on Smith Mountain Lake...

During the year of the Striper we were in our second successful year of Striper fishing SML. We had a fever and the only cure was Stripers. We went to the lake to catch Stripers and eat nachos , but we never took nachos. You get the idea. We were Striper fishing idiots.

Our schedule that year looked like this : M-F Dawn to Dusk on the Gun Boat , Sat. &Sun. Browbeatings from our wives. We lived that schedule for almost four months , give or take a week at either end , and excepting the Christmas Holiday. We even fished Thanksgiving and Black Friday , sending the girls off to buy a newly released five hundred pound High Definition TV on Friday , after scarfing down a late Thanksgiving dinner. It was and is one of the longest runs of fishing I've ever had , and maybe ever will.

Which brings me back to the batteries. Deep Cycle batteries have come a long way in the last 10 years. They were unreliable , fickle things that would lose the ability to hold charge far sooner than the alternative I discovered  : truck batteries. Specifically , big honking tractor trailer diesel cranking Die Hards. I had two , specifically for my trolling motor. They were heavy , and fairly heavy duty. I tried to keep them filled up with water , so as not to ruin them by charging with a dry cell. Truthfully , though , in the middle of a months long bite , things have a way of getting out of hand.

Starting during late October and continuing through February , maybe even March , sunlight on Smith Mountain Lake means wind. Through some process of reverse sunlight osmosis , or some such bs , the air surrounding the lake moves with ever increasing violence as the nights grow colder. Late November and December can be brutally harsh , as Arctic fronts pass through to beat the remaining leaves off of our trees. The main channel is usually home to 2 foot swells , whitecaps , and occasional spray. And I won't even mention the guys who prefer to fly up and down the lake in their Striper Boats , beating the water to a froth in an attempt to find a feeding school of fish to throw poorly tied bucktails at.

As you can imagine , facing constant wind and an onslaught of waves, I spent the majority of November and December making quartering turns into the wind , with my foot on the trolling motor controls non stop. That's hard on your batteries , as is charging them overnight when you aren't on the water in cold weather.

So there you have it. During the year of the Striper , sometime in the month of December , I managed to boil two Die Hard truck batteries bone dry with a 6 amp Schumacher. The last few days were tricky indeed , as the batteries gave a last gasp effort to keep our lines down and our nose into the wind. I got my money's worth out of those two jokers , if nothing else.

Have a good week , my friends!

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