It’s been a while, to say the least…
Fishing has been slow and I’m afraid I’ve been “dragging the skunk along” as fellow fly fishing blogger / uber fly fisherman Artie Loomis once quoted. Additionally, life has leaned a little heavy on my shoulders in other areas. Nonetheless, in the words of the immortal American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
Be still sad heart and cease repining;
Behind the clouds the sun is shining,
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life a little rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.
I recently took a family vacation to the salt and was able to wet a line in both Ocean City, Maryland and Barnegat, New Jersey. Both areas yielded nothing to the fly, but, in an 18th birthday wish for my son, Chris, I was able to temporarily throw the skunk by hitting the party boats out of Barnegat Light.
We decided to fish for blues on the Miss Barnegat Light. For the last month-plus, the big boys (and girls) have been focused on propagating the species and the catch has been primarily of the “cocktail / snapper” size (1 – 3 lbs). But on the eve of our trip, ole Miss Barney had started picking 8 – 14 lb fish – more the size that leaves you with sore arms. Unfortunately, said fishing skunk showed at the docks on our arrival: Miss Barnegat Light was not going to sea due to some type of mechanical problem.
So, a-fluking we would go. The Doris Mae was eager to have us. Some time before we headed out, the Carolyn Ann III sent her flukers to the Doris Mae and suddenly we were chock-a-block with fishermen, many of the sub-teen variety. I had noticed the wind was out of the northeast – never a great sign – and the flags about Long Beach Island were streaming straight out, indicating that wind was a stiff one and that sea conditions could be rough.
Sure enough, once we rounded the lighthouse, we ran headfirst into an angry inlet. The wind was working with the tidal current – had it not been, the inlet would have been a real mess. For all those history buffs out there, Barnegat is a derivation from the Dutch for “inlet of breakers”, and indeed, it can be a very dangerous inlet when wind and current align right.
We fished the inlet for a while with 10 ounce bank sinkers and fluke rig baited with spearing and a strip of squid. It wasn’t long before Chris and I started hooking up but, like all of the fish being caught on the boat, none met the legal keeping size of 18″. This newly imposed limit has a lot of fluke fishermen seething as the commercial guys are apparently not bound to it. Personally, I’m always an advocate of catch and release, but a nice fluke dinner (otherwise known as summer flounder), is hard to pass up now and then…
After a while of drift fishing the inlet our captain decided to brave the open ocean off the beach. The winds had abated some but the waves were still there, and it wasn’t long before we were rocking and rolling to 10 foot seas. The Doris Mae wasn’t the only thing rocking either – the younger kids who had been guzzling soda and all types of snacks were now looking pretty green. The rail soon filled with “chummers”.
Being seasoned sailors, Chris and I fished merrily away. We were now using 16 ounces of lead to keep in touch with the bottom, but few fish were caught by anyone. Much to the relief of our unsailor-like brethren, we returned to the inlet to finish the trip.
We fished the inlet drift and scored more fluke, but all were throw-backs. The pool went to a 20″ fish, with few keepers caught. Chris had also scored a snapper blue which we kept for the grill!
In honor of Chris’s 18th, I bought a few beautiful soft shell blue-clawed crabs. For those not familiar with this delicacy, crabs shed their exoskeletons (shells) as they grow larger. Crabs that are caught shedding are called “peelers” and bring a premium price as the entire crab is edible, meaning there’s no picking of meat – just wholesale chowing down.
After a great dinner, we capped the day off with cigars – Chris’s first. The night was cool, breezy, and unseasonably dry. And it was ours…
Here’s wishing my patient readership tight lines…