Monday, September 29, 2014

Hybrid Striped Bass Hit Herring, Forget the Chicken Livers

"Every day is a fishing day, not a catching day," Joe's brother, Jimmy, said. He's back from seven months on vacation with the chance to do some hybrid and walleye fishing. A nine pound walleye in his freezer from the last he fished Hopatcong, Jimmy wants to get it mounted yet. I wanted to hook a hybrid, but I wasn't really expecting anything. Last week, Fred and I never took any hits at all on our live herring. We fished eight hours.

And they're catching hybrids on chicken livers, chumming the bass with cat food, not particularly how I want to fish. We left Dow's dock yesterday with a bucket of live herring. I also had a Binsky ready to jig. I would nail a bluegill on it.

The four of us fit fine in the 16 foot aluminum, and although this outing would become more of a reunion for the two brothers, we caught fish.

We rigged steel egg sinkers above barrel swivels; 30 inch leaders attaching size eight treble hooks, the snouts of herring served as entry points. Joe fished an ultralight rod with a weightless herring in addition to a weighted rig. With yesterday's weather, live-lining was appropriate, but I stayed with weighting my two herring rigs down in 20 foot depths. Temperatures got pretty close to 90 earlier in the afternoon, but oxygen must be established nearly 30 feet deep by now. We had some very chilly mornings since the day I fished with Fred.

Wind wasn't heavy; our first drift was just right. My line must have angled away from the boat by no more than eight or nine degrees. I wasn't watching when I heard the drag screech. I grabbed the handle and clasped line against it (drag was loosened to allow take), reared back, and felt great weight. I knew instantly I had hooked the largest hybrid striper of my life. That isn't really saying much; I caught one nearly five pounds in 2011. The great fish felt like a buck deer beginning to lope away when the hook pulled.

Then I examined my reel. Line had wrapped around the exterior head base. The striper had taken line extremely fast, then slowed, the spool continuing to spin with the drag set all too light. Line looped off the spool, and when I began to reel--having set the hook--it firmly wrapped around. Hopeless to try and untangle, I cut and retied.

I knew better. But as detailed as my habits of preparation are, I didn't put two and two together or get any intuitive warning from my subconscious about setting the drag too light. I once had the same problem surf fishing, and seven years ago my son nearly lost his first walleye--a five pounder--for the same reason. Miraculously, I got line untangled just as it tightened, and together we set the hook.

It felt real good to have that hybrid on. This bodes very well for outings yet this fall. So did a hit that Jimmy missed. I saw his rod take a bow.

On our third drift pass, the sun had set. We would fish less than two hours total. Suddenly, Joe was on. The drift had nearly stopped altogether and that live-lined, weightless herring did the trick. Who knows where it was in the water column, but we floated in nearly 30 feet of it, 50 foot depths nearby, although these are not habitable yet.

What a difference a fish makes! Joe never uses a net. He lip-landed the bass, a small one of about three and quarter pounds, but big enough for Joe, Diane, and Jimmy to celebrate for dinner. I haven't seen two brothers bond like this since I read the story from Australia.

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