Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Portsmouth Island Pinfish

Two years ago my family took Austin Boat Tours to Portsmouth Island, my wife and son walking the vacant beach and swimming in Ocracoke Inlet while I fished, well prepared with my eight-foot Tica and Penn 440ssg. I had the Tica along today, I just forgot to bring the tackle. But I had two St. Croix 5 1/2-foot medium power rods rigged each with a size 6 plain shank hook and split shot. So I could fish, but just about all my hope for a keeper flounder or two vanished as soon as I realized I had left the tackle tray back at the rental. Or possibly even a cobia. I had hopes for prize game, as crazy as they were, which I came to better realize without any possible means. Cobia do get caught in Wallace Channel during the summer on occasion. I caught a seven-pounder in 2010, though from a boat. That's a small cobia, but 40-pounders have been caught on flounder rigs.

So I removed a split shot from the six-pound test of one of the rods, and cramped it on to the line of the same strength of the other. And then I must have spit a dozen times, because to cramp soft lead with teeth means--for certain--that trace amounts of lead get in your mouth. I have needlenose pliers in my tackle tray. My friends and I were damn fools in our teens, tooth-crimping lead with abandon.

I had a pound of Lund's California squid for bait, and pinfish responded quickly to pieces of it. Wallace Channel cuts right in close to the shoreline, and with tide racing out at very fast pace, it seemed a wonder any fish successfully fought that current. I took a break and tried it myself. No way could I hold my place, swept downstream as I swam as if in a flooding river.

With the Tica and a two-ounce bank sinker, I fished as deep as perhaps 20 feet two years ago. And I caught a lot of flounder, though not one met keeper size. With the split shots, I got about eight feet deep at most. Nevertheless, a bluegill-sized pinfish fights pretty hard on a light rod. These subtly colorful fish get their name from dorsal fins a lot sharper than any sunfish. Like pins. I always try to avoid them, but never seem to avoid getting pierced. They're good to eat, but I tossed the handful I caught today back into the slightly stained, Pamlico brine.

And I caught a snapper bluefish of about nine inches, shortly after something struck hard and took the whole rig--hook, line, and sinker. I resorted to fishing squid weightless and caught a pinfish and the blue. Before I got snagged and lost the second hook, I had it figured out that using the squid heads attracted the most attention and possibly would result in a larger fish. Pinfish nipped and tugged at the tentacles, but the integrity of the mess held together pretty well, as I tugged the bait away. I would have put the rod on the sand and followed the line to a snag to unhook manually, if the line didn't break first, as I tried to shake it loose upstream of the catch. So that ended the fishing.

If you ever fish a shoreline that looks like it's the same up and down, and you're compelled to stay in place, even though you're not getting many takes, take my advice and walk the bank. I went upstream about a hundred yards and found a lot more pinfish. The reason why doesn't matter as much as that they were there, and not where I had left.

A nice late morning and early afternoon I didn't let slip away altogether, just because I had been careless before I got there. Matt took interest in shells, and found another Scotch bonnet like last year, complete and undamaged, but with a couple of barnacles attached. He also found an olive shell, but with part of the top end broken off. When I was young, I used to get up before dawn to scour the beach for shells at the tide line. Now I'm content to watch for differences in clouds overhead.

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