So a few months back, Bruce asked my brother Brian and I to contribute to his blog this year. Bruce was going to focus his blog on catching striped bass and seeing as how we accompany him on a lot of his fishing trips (and we’re wicked funny), he wanted us to join in the blogging fun. Well, since I like Bruce, I like fishing, and I like making up fishing stories, I agreed. So here goes……
Back in the mid 80’s, my family lived a few miles from the Cape Cod Canal. During those days, I was commuting to Bridgewater State College during the day and tending bar at night. Occasionally, Brian and I would head down to the canal to cast out a plug. We would park at the railroad bridge and walk down the service road a ways, passing the same fishermen most nights, all camped out in their regular spots. We would spend a couple of hours casting out and reeling our plugs back in not really knowing much about when or where or how to catch stripers. The striper population was in a big decline back then so the size limit had been increased to 32 inches. I had never caught striper up to that point, but I enjoyed sitting along the edge of the water, smelling the salty air and tossing back a few cold ones. Boy, life was a bit different then, with my only concerns being which class I should skip the next day and wondering if we had enough beer for the night.
Well one night, I was standing out on a rock by myself as Brian had to work late and was going to met up with me later that evening. I was reeling in a swimming plug when suddenly something hit my line and pulled like crazy. Well my heart just about stopped and my brain started to panic. The fish on the end of the line started to pull out line and I didn’t know what to do. I had caught plenty of largemouth bass in freshwater, but nothing that ever took out this much line. The rod bent over way more than I thought possible. This was my father’s old 8 foot surf casting rod that I thought was overkill, but enjoyed using because it could cast some heavy plugs way out. We used to have casting contests to see who could go the farthest across the canal. Anyway, here I am with my rod doubled over, line peeling off each time the fish made a run, and I’m standing in the dark on wet rock afraid to move for fear of failing onto the water. It seemed like every time I started to reel up some line, that fish would take off again and take out more and more line. After five or six strong runs, I started gaining on the fish. I kept pulling up on the rod and reeling in slack as I let it back down. Unexpectedly, the fish turned around and started swimming towards me. The line started to go slack and a wave of disappointment swept over me as I realize that no one was even there to have seen me fight this fish. But suddenly, I realize that he was still on, so I cranked that reel as fast as I could go. The line tightened again and the battle continued. As the fish came closer to shore, he gave a huge swirl as he made one last turn to run. I just about peed my pants when I saw the size of his tail. Eventually, he tired out and I dragged him towards the rocks. No longer worried about getting wet or slipping on the rocks, I jumped down and pounced on him. Not really sure how to hold him, I grabbed him with both arms in a bear hug and climbed up to the service road. My rod was still down by the water, the plug somehow now hooked to my shirt, and my foot was soaking wet from apparently stepping in the water, but there laying on the ground in front of me was my first striped bass.
Now when I say this bass was huge, I of course am exaggerating. He measured out to 32 inches (well maybe I had to squish him down a little for that last half inch) and weight at least25 pounds. Now I know what you’re thinking, no way a 32 inch fish weights 25 pounds. Well, you’re probable right, but this is my story so that’s the number I’m using. Since my previous biggest fish was probably an 18 inch largemouth, this fish was impressive. I had never had a fish almost pull the rod out of my hands, never caught one that I couldn’t lift with one hand, and never been so excited after catching a fish. It probable took a good 5 minutes for me to catch my breath and for my heart to slow down to normal after landing this beast.
Well Brian had not yet shown up, so I decided to head home. I had to show someone this fish before I exploded. I packed up my equipment and headed back to the car. One of the regulars saw me walk by with the fish and asked how big. I proudly said it was 32 and I was going home to eat it. And boy was it good. My father showed me how to filet it and within 30 minutes of pulling it out of the water, it was on a grill, topped with salt, pepper, and lemon and tasting better than any fish I have previously eaten. This was the night that I feel in love with striped bass. Not just the taste, but the thrill of catching it. I now spend the winter months planning fishing trips and anxiously waiting for spring and the bass migration to arrive.
P.S. The next evening, Brian went down to try his luck. When he asked a local how was the fishing, he was told, “You should have been here last night. Some kid pulled in a 32 pounder!”