Squalus acanthias,the spiny finned dogfish, are well known for their voracious and opportunistic feeding behavior. They eat a lot.......and for as long as it is available. To make matters worse they swim in large packs and will chase and corner huge schools of baitfish ... remaining until they are decimated! This behavior occurs with many many kinds of fish, from cod to mackerel and haddock, herring etc. If the fish hunt seems slow during the season for these eating machines, they will also ingest lobsters..squid ...crabs ..snails...sea cucumbers, etc. Like I said from the start,they are not fussy eaters.... They are endless eaters!
These spiny finned sharks...and trust me, they have very nasty non retracting spikes on their dorsal and rear fin, so handle with care!!, are also migratory creatures....coming from the south to the north in the spring and returning to more southern waters in the fall. Its where they are in the summer that reallllllly irritates me. Right in the waters from Plum Island to P-town ......along the entire shore and as deep as 150 ft etc. They are tearing up live bluefish, when being used as giant tuna bait and clams for cod and every bait that is tossed out from the shore ...including the beloved eel!. And once they find you.......they will NOT leave. Remember, they swim in schools and have shark behavior.....most stripers want nothing to do with that action! This can result in a season of a thousand lost hooks and fight- less dogfish. Rarely is a striper mixed in unless the striper finds the bait before the shark.....But if they are around, that wont happen often..They,too, are the ultimate eating machine.
After announcing to Rugby, my English bulldog, that God had given us another day........(I woke up before him), I pulled the blinds on the picture window... to a picture window kind of morning!! Grape cumulous cotton candy clouds altered the morning globe from its normal rising clarity. I couldn't bear to have this beautiful tide spoiled by the immediacy of the dogfish to fresh bait. I knew they would come quickly. Being angry is not a good way to surf cast.....If I don't enjoy myself like its the first time......I must be going fishing to much. I needed to go surfcasting with hope and not frustration. Today I would not give in to the leisure and historically successful chunking method for cows. I would avoid the tantrum of another day of sharks. Today I would simply.......Stroll.
Strolling is simply a term I use for plugging on the move. The paradise I live in offers me 2 miles of barrier beach in either direction....A satisfying walk, hand in hand with the Atlantic ocean, by any standards. That's four miles of fishing...approx 30 min a mile ...including some casts, and that equals two hours of imaginative plugging and walking and sun soaking, with an occasional dip along the way........kinda day!
Beams of gleam from the mornings sun drew me toward the day like vertigo. A beach glance showed no sign of fish, for my casting...but the Purple Fluff maintained a blanket from the night and the morning was delayed. Stereotypically, with rod and plug bag , I parked myself on a piece of driftwood from a forgotten tide. I waited......and worshipped living!
Strolling, is merely ....land trolling!! This time, instead of you showing the lure and hoping the fish find it, as on a boat.........you look for the fish and then show them the lure once you establish indicators that the fish are within casting range. It has more of a stalking vein to it. We are hoping to find these fish close to us and in a chaotic state, to the degree that you can enter their hunt with your imposter, called a lure! Previous days showed schooling fish and having chosen Fourth Cliff for my walk to and fro...I was sure id spot the same behavior today.
I would have needed binoculars to bring me close enough to identify if fish were breaking water, in what appeared to be some action. very far away! When I saw the unique outline of BIG diving gannets , usually an open ocean bird, I was super charged with hope. That cyclical ocean drama of birds and fish was still full throttle. Kicking my docksiders off, I chugged toward Fourth Cliff with a smooth...patient...confident gait...My 9 footer in hand and plug bag over my shoulder...The Strolling began.
The "wind dejour" was gusty and erratic. The varied gusts seemed to bump into each other and I thoroughly relished watching the sand seem to give appearance to the invisible winds in the form of dancing tiny tornados. These 6ft funnels were magical moments that so often go unnoticed. As I have said many times..there is so much to see...if your there to see it!. I wanted to touch these flighty funnels. I wanted to dance with one........I wanted them to stay for a long time. in one place. so I could really observe them. Something's are meant to be fleeting....and so, they came and went with the same history as my previous foot print ........Simply part of the Strolling.
Sunny days make me smile. So as I meandered along this glorious beach, im sure my face reflected my serenity and joy. This was even more noticeable when I spotted the school well within casting distance but 3-4 hundred yards from me!!!! I ask you? Do you run to this action? Part of Strolling is accepting the entirety of the trek.Don't run..Keep your stride...Formulate your approach. Let your pulse rate rise from excitement and not from anaerobic activity. Stay calm. Your the hunter when your strolling. Hunters use stealth and wit.....Strolling surf casters should do the same.
Im sure I had my fingers crossed the whole time I got closer to the schooling fish, hoping they would stay put to allow me a few casts... If they are bluefish...they probably will. Schooling stripers are a bit more easily dispersed then choppers. Fifty yards from the rippling water I saw a striper roll over. These weren't bluefish. I stayed back from the visible feeding to be sure my gear and lure choice were all set. The bait fish left a shimmering surface as they balled up to weather the striper onslaught. This is usually a sand eel or very small prey. I went with a little Rapala in hopes of matching up. Stripers are NOT bluefish when then are schooled up. In a bluefish frenzy you could catch one if you put a hook on bank sinker. That is not the way of the wary striper. I have found that either you match the hatch, as they would say....or you go fishless. The rapala seemed to match........but, I could not get the distance needed with this smaller lure. I pulled out the tin and tossed a shiny kastmaster into the splashing . I jigged it...I reeled it slowly.....and then quickly......running out each cast and each presentation all the way to the sand. They didn't want it! Its funny when you think of all the plugs that fill our bags and tackle boxes!!. Each one bought with the image of a 50 lber attached to it. Gazing in to the bag after 10 good tosses with the kastmaster and the school still there, I found a shimmering Rattle Trap.....gazing back at me. The slow, throbbing pulse of the rattle trap retrieve was interrupted by a strike........and I was on. The tussle was fun with the 9 ft lamiglass and you get the best out of a fish when they are hooked cleanly in the mouth as compared to gut hooked etc. Nice eating sized linesider. Probably would have just made 28"...but sure was fun. Passer bys gave their approval and took a quick picture for me, before returning this , plug tricked, foam feeder back to her home surf.
My Strolling Striper
I wasn't in waders and the soothing sun took on the warmth of a summer day........so I followed my striper out to the deep blue sea by diving in after her. Strolling provides that option. I enjoy more than simply the fish and on this stroll, that included a nice cool dip. Using my shirt as a makeshift towel, I re shouldered my bag and picked up the rod, with the Rattletrap still attached. Stripers are hard enough to catch...don't mess with success. If I saw fish again on this morning, that noisy plug would be my choice . The taste of dripping salty water and the smell of striper on my hands made me feel as natural as can be. God I love this sport and the arena it requires!!
Upon reaching Fourth Cliff, I could see a school off the point. I had to get off the sand and out into the rocks, in order to be within casting distance. It offered some variation to the Stroll, so I made the trek. Even a 2 ounce Gibbs fell well short of the action, to be effective. That is the way of the surfcaster..........many misses.
I turned around for the return stroll and the sun was meeting me head-on with the feeling of a warm blanket on a chilly nite. The swimming and wading had raised some goose bumps, but natures mothering would make them go away. The warmth was euphoric. Dreamland. I would only walk the waters edge so as to stay in as much contact with the moment as I could. Was I on a Caribbean island ?.....Alone?....Fishing for whatever passes by? So it seemed. The glow of the sun forced me to squint through my Polaroid's.....that gave me the most clarity possible to see what I needed to see. You have to look to see things!!!!!! You have to really look closely if you want to see things worthy of that preciseness..... I REALLY LOOK CLOSELY..... I wanna see it all! The distantly detected schools remained offshore on the return trip. I could not have cast to them with a knee mortar.
Odd clouds turned to misty moments as the walk concluded. The grapeness of today's clouds had released the fuel for one of natures greatest wonders. This morning of Strolling. ended with a nice fish, tornatic tingles. a soothing swim..............and a rainbow.!!!
Cover water....Feel its wetness.....Look for subtleties and see them!. Use pursuit and not just hope........Go Strolling.