Tag Archives: false albacore

MENHADEN: ROCK THE VOTE!

Photo from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation

The fishing has been sucking. Here’s a chance where we can all actually do something about it. Rather than mince words, I’ll paste them directly from a mailing by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation:

In a matter of days, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) will meet to discuss the fate of menhaden (AKA the most important fish in the sea). At the end of that meeting, it will adopt an addendum to its menhaden management plan, which will determine new overfishing thresholds and target fishing rates.

Now, more than ever, we need your help. In 32 of the past 54 years, we have overfished menhaden, and its population now stands at its lowest point on record—a mere 8 percent of what it once was!

But, we have an historic opportunity to rebuild the population of this important fish, which represents a critical link in the marine food web of the entire Atlantic coast, especially the Chesapeake Bay. Please write ASMFC today and urge the commission to set new targets that will allow the menhaden population to increase to a point where it can support a fishery and fulfill its vital ecological role. Please submit your letters by 5 p.m. November 2, 2011, in order for them to be considered.

If we don’t speak up now, this fish, so critical to the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem and the human community that it supports, could be lost forever.

How To Release An Albie

spike jones on the box

–Book a charter for $600

–Or, fill your boat with $600 worth of fuel

–Or, mill about on shore with a boost from Trucker’s Friend to keep your wits in case they ever come close enough.

–Drive around aimlessly in aforementioned boat in areas they are supposed to be, looking for busts.

–Curse and throw stuff when the scoped birds are diving over bluefish. Claim that you hate their very existence even though you secretly want to stop and cast to them with a wired-on popper.

–Finally see missiles projecting out of the water and slashing through rainbait; trip in your haste to make ready at the bow, knocking your teeth into a bow cleat. Calculate cost of future dentistry.

–Load backcast, flub forward cast, watch every false albacore in vicinity disappear.

–Load backcast, make forward cast, watch every false albacore in vicinity disappear.

–Load backcast, hook boat driver in his ear.

–Make cast into busting albies, hook outgoing coil on the anchor pulpit. Lose $80 worth of fly line.

–Watch your friend catch albies on his turn with none of the previously mentioned problems.

–Sell your soul to the devil to hook a fish.

–Hook fish, lose the aft half to a shark. Reel in head.

–Sell your childrens’ souls for another shot.

–Hook fish, fight fish, enjoy the line cuts, land fish by grabbing its tail.

–Hold fish in the air, triumphantly spike it head first back into the water.

–Exhale.

Yeah, you spiked it for the oxygen flow.

INTERVIEW: John Papciak, Montauk Wetsuiter

From Surfcaster's Journal

Even a boat guy like me realizes that if you fish in the Northeast, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t read Surfcaster’s J0urnal.

John Papciak is the magazine’s fly guru, and a proponent of one of the most hardcore ways there is to fish for striped bass: Swimming out to the rocks. He gives a great account of it in the most recent issue called “Confessions of a Wetsuiter.”

Intrigued, I decided to email him a few questions, just because it’s so intense and maybe, well, borderline insane?

Here’s the interview:

Swimming out to the far rocks at night seems like an extreme way to fly fish. What made you decide to try it?

There is whole contingent in Montauk (surfcasters) who fish in wetsuits, at night. Let’s be clear, I am not the only one. Some prefer to fish in waist deep water, some push further out. I’ve been surfing and SCUBA diving since my teens, so the idea of swimming out to a rock never seemed like such a big deal. It just so happens I like to fish these locations with a fly rod (when conditions permit). You put the fly rod in your teeth, and off you go.

What are some of the real risks involved?

Much to say here-

I detailed a number of risks for an article I recently wrote for Surfcaster’s Journal. There’s been plenty of writing about wetsuiting “triumphs” in various magazines over the years, but few are willing to write about the risks.

Earlier this summer I got word of a well-known wetsuiter whose body was found on the beach at Cuttyhunk – it was a guy who was very close with a mutual friend. I can’t say that wetsuiting per se resulted in the fatality, but it got me thinking about my own experiences. This was partly the motivation for that article.

What are the risks? (1) I have to assume that boaters are not likely to see me, (2) I’d better have a firm grasp of how the tide is running, I don’t want to find myself swimming against current, and (3) I have to be very sure of my swimming abilities.

Physical and mental conditioning is critical.

As I get older, I really really try to keep in shape, case in point I competed in a two-mile Ocean Swim Race in Montauk earlier this year. Aside from general health benefits, this training makes the thought of swimming a couple hundred yards to a rock seem like a nice way to relax. And so then it is!

So are you swimming out there in fins and swapping out with Korkers?

There is some specialization in terms of technique and gear, all based on trial and error. Over the years, guys have worked up all types of gadgets. I’ve tried Korker studs that were embedded into fins; I’ve seen fins that were modified to be more easily removed once you got to a rock. I’ve seen guys try to use rock-climbing gear. The things I’ve seen, wow quite comical! My own experience is that it is too cumbersome to try to swap out of fins once you are out there. Once you are near the rock, you have to get upright as quickly as possible before being washed around by the waves. For this reason I just swim with my Korkers on.

Equipment is as follows:

I wear a diving or surfing wetsuit usually 5 or 6 mil, I have my Korkers that are double tied to my feet and ankles, I wear a belt with pliers attached with phone chord, I have a stripping basket made from an old shopping basket so the water flushes quickly. I always have two dive lights with fresh batteries. The flies are in a wallet, along with some leaders, maybe an extra shooting head; the wallet is shoved in the wetsuit. Everything needs to stay in place while I swim. With my rod is in my mouth, my arms and legs are free.

Obviously, you wouldn’t do it if there weren’t potential for incredible payout?

Yes, you are into productive water, and I would argue the chances of hooking a quality bass are seldom better. On any night, a fish of 20 lbs or more on fly is a very realistic goal. I’ve had some very big bluefish and weakfish on fly, and even some nice false albacore when fishing into daylight.

Do you ever go skishing with a fly rod?

Yes, but I don’t see this as something that works particularly well. Very hard to get off a good haul, if you can picture it. Also a bit hard to land a fish. Due to the angle of the fly rod during the last stages of the fight. Yes, I’ve done it, but it’s awkward. Standing over the water on a rock is much better.

I’m a boat guy. Many shore guys I know prefer the challenges and risks associated with fishing on foot. Are you in that camp? Why?

For me, surfcasting is a connection with the ocean, in the most pure and simple fashion, without the engine noise and smell, and without the excess baggage of electronics and other boating paraphernalia. This gear and mobility handicap is supplanted with the accumulated knowledge of structure, wind, tide and migration. Fly-fishing just takes it a step further, where a decorated hook is the only lure. The attraction for me is in the simplicity of it all.

So how does fly fishing in the surf zone differ from surfcasting? Ironically, it is usually the case that these flies, when tied even remotely correctly, are a better imitation of bait species than most popular surfcasting plugs. So this all makes sense, fly fishing from shore, or swimming to get to a better rock.

I do own a boat – but if you can believe it – I generally use it to get to locations and then jump out to wade the back bays.

Can you tell me a little about the Bring Back Big Bass movement and your role in it?

Lots to say here as well – In 2001 I was trying to organize saltwater anglers via an educational/awareness campaign leading up to Amendment 6 of the Striped Bass Management Plan. By 2001, Striped Bass regulations were being relaxed up and down the coast, and Amendment Six was an opportunity to put more meaningful goals in place to make sure the striped bass population would continue to thrive. At the time, there were certainly more fish around than in the 1980s, but not so many large fish. Plenty of congratulatory PR was being circulated, and various interests were practically licking their chops to see regulations further relaxed.

“The Job’s Not Done Until We Bring Back the Big Bass” became the campaign slogan. We instructed anglers up and down the coast to attend the public hearings. We even took out full-page ads in certain fishing magazines. (I still see the bumper stickers from time to time, on trucks or in various tackle stores)

The campaign worked! – Well, sort of.

Anglers did show up for the hearings in good numbers! Everyone got the message, and an overwhelming majority went on record in those hearings and requested striped bass mortality targets be lowered – meaning fewer fish should be killed.

But if it were only that easy-

Some Striped Bass Commissioners (representing various states as part of the ASMFC body that manages the striped bass plan) ultimately dismissed this public opinion, and casted their swing votes for higher mortality targets anyway as Amendment Six was finalized.

This was a learning experience. I failed to realize just how brazen some Commissioners would be. There was (and still is) zero accountability. To the best of my knowledge, Commissioners are not required to explain why they voted against public opinion, as expressed at hearings etc. This is politics!

Clearly, there were influential bodies working behind the scenes here. And ever since, that pro-kill voice has more or less prevailed.

The striped bass population is now clearly on the decline again. The only hope is we can somehow get tighter regs in place before it gets much worse.

To read Papciak’s article, “Confessions of a Wetsuiter” in Surfcaster’s Journal, go here:

PHOTOGRAPHY: Book Project Underway

SWSB37
Photo the exclusive property of Toshbrown.com

Those are the hands of Jason Puris of Thefin.com releasing a striper in the surf. Jason proved a huge help to getting our book project off the ground.

Tosh Brown took some awesome shots in incredibly harsh conditions and posted some of them here, in a lightbox on his site.

Now my job starts. Time to put some real thought onto the page, rather than firing off blog posts.

Thanks again to Jason, Paul Dixon, Jim Levison, John McMurray, Mike Warecke, and the Salty Fly Rodders of New York.

BOOK REVIEW: The Big One

the-big-one

Score one for participatory journalism.

In 2007 David Kinney, a career newspaperman, dove headfirst into the collective insanity that is the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby. The result is The Big One, an exhaustively researched window into the people and culture that fuel the derby, and the mania that fuels them.

It would be tempting to think this was an easy book to write; go fishing and then type it all out. That would be incorrect. Kinney deserves credit for gaining access to a group so paranoid and insular that getting any of them to talk and take him fishing is remarkable. (In fact, reading some passages, you’re left to wonder if the source is on the level or passing along blatant misinformation.)

Kinney weaves the narrative around a local angler named Lev Wlodyka, who during the tournament catches the fish of a lifetime and sparks a flurry of controversy that still reverbates in striper cirlces today. (Yo-yoing for stripers is a divisive fishing technique.) But Kinney fishes with just about everybody in the tournament; from shore, by boat, at night, at sunrise, on the jetty, in public spots and secret spots, with blue collar wharf rats and charter hiring blue bloods. He documents what the tourney means to them against the backdrop of evolving Vineyard life.

The book is not for everyone. Some may be turned off by what competitive fishing does to people. Others will blanch at the glorification of an all-kill tournament, a practice even a lot of hardcore anglers find outdated. If you’re comfortable with either notion, and have delved into northeast salt, you will enjoy this read.

Even if you’ve never been to the Vineyard or fished for striped bass, bluefish, albies, or bonito, there is one central theme you can take away from this book. And that is that the best fishermen are insane.

VIDEO: False Albacore

Some shaky footage from fishing for false albacore last week.

[UPDATE: Reloaded the video after trying to take some of the shakiness out. It was making me sick.]

[NOTE: For everyone asking, the rod is a Helios prototype, which is why it has a different reel seat and coloration than what's in production. And, yes, that is floating line. I had on full sink, but when I hooked my first one the line didn't clear properly and I got a ridiculous bird's nest pulled tight by a fleeing albie. I didn't want to miss out while untangling, so I switched out to the floating--all I had--super quick just to get a fly in the mix. Normally I use full sink. The backing is gel spun.]