Woke up at 2:45AM on Saturday to go fishing with my father. He chartered a boat out of Barnegat Light, NJ (which sounds like the perfect set location for a Scooby Doo episode) for Striped Bass aka Stripers. I put on a pair of jeans, a long sleeved shirt, a long sleeved button down shirt, a sweatshirt, a North Face jacket, and then a Phillies wind breaker jacket on top of that, and topped it off with a wool cap and gloves.
I pulled up to Dad’s house at the scheduled meeting time of 3:15AM where we loaded up and departed. The car ride was filled with good conversation and in a flash we were pulling up to a quiet marina at 5:30AM. The captain pulled up in a pickup truck with his son, unloaded eight fishing rods, a cooler, and a box of tackle. In 30 seconds, we became acquainted, hopped on the boat, slipped the ropes off the cleats and backed the boat out of the slip and headed for the ocean.
On a cool day in mid November, you would not imagine a lot of folks taking their boats into the ice cold Jersey ocean waters, but there were hundreds, if not, thousands of boats in every direction. The Stripers are in the midst of a big migration south and they’re concentrated all along the Jersey shore until they make their way further south around Thanksgiving. Every fishermen with a boat, was out there this weekend taking a shot at these migrating bass.
Not too long ago, Stripers were tough to catch and their numbers were dwindling. Fortunately, a number of protective measures were put in place with strict quantity limits and size requirements for keeping fish. After about 10 years of these restrictions, they are rebounding in a big way and people are catching more and more of these spectacular game fish that can get over 50 pounds. We managed to catch 20 Stripers with about 10 of them meeting size requirements, a couple of them exceeding 30 inches in length.
The captain was pretty demanding of his first mate (his 17 year old son) and on many occasions the son would get yelled at for doing something not in accordance of the captain’s preference (not inserting a rod fully into a rod holder, not putting the lure far enough out, putting the lure too far out, etc.), one time the son was letting line out to get the lure to the desired distance when the rod slammed around and was fully bent with line ripping off the reel. The captain started yelling at the son saying “What the Hell is going on, are you snagged? Why in the world do you get snagged when I am never getting snagged?” The son shrugged his shoulders and said he wasn’t sure it was a snag, the captain killed the throttle, anticipating the line to slacken, but instead the rod kept its bend and line still peeling off the reel. The captain quickly realized that it was no snag and instead a substantial fish was tugging on the other end. Indeed it was a large Striped Bass on one hook and a large Bluefish on another (two fish were hooked on two lures that were being trolled on a single rod), when the fish were landed, it was suggested to the captain that he might apologize to the son who did nothing wrong and in fact, hooked two fish on a single rod, however the captain just said “Maybe I owe you an apology”. The kid didn’t seem to mind, his two fish said enough.
On the way home, I sat on the front of the boat as it sped home and often got the salty ice cold water spraying over the bow, covering my face, strangely enough, it felt wonderful and completely refreshing.