My stare into space was interrupted by a swirling tail in very shallow water, and the scene became clear to me. The discarded chips from the crab eaten chunks had become chum by my discarding them in the skinny water in front of me. The cow noticed them however! Within a second a reeled my big "perfect " chunk of mackerel into the rippled area and waited. Nothing. My wait was brief because in order to catch huge stripers, sometimes you need to be just like one. Sort of like Improvisational Surfcasting!
Quietly but purposefully I went to the bait bucket and chopped up a head piece in to fine, fine chips. I them dropped to a #5 hook and cut a very thin wafer of mackerel to use as bait. All this in the dark mind you. The method I hoped to work was what many of us do when yellow fin tuna fishing.........if they are on the chunk bite!. I call it "Over the chum."
With trout stream behavior I crept back to the splash area. With my left hand I threw the chum right where she had been and at the same time flipped my wafer sized bait at the big lady, with the rod in my right hand. The chum sprinkled....the bait settled right in on top of it, and as before, I waited. It was obvious that she was sucking in all the chum in a frantic fashion because of how quickly she took it. From 30 feet away, I set the hook with my wrist!
Big Stripers fight differently in the night. I have often assumed that is because they are less sure about where exactly they are fleeing for! When the insult of that little # 5 was clear to the big fish, she took off for the deep blue sea.......but not that far! It has been my experience that sometimes at night the big cows will swim out to a point of "Leverage." This is the point where you cannot pull her with a normal drag set for 20 LB test line because of the way she positions her body in the water..... It is virtually a stand off. The down side for the striper is that she exerts a lot of force to hold that resistance against the rod and drag system. This causes a build up of lactic acid and can be detrimental to their release. The down side for the angler is impatience and fear of her getting off. If you palm the spool or tighten the drag, to provide more resistance in hopes of breaking her spirit.......IT USUALLY BREAKS THE LINE.
I pride myself on my respect for the Striped Bass and the format and style used in landing big stripers......and so I waited her out, all the while my heart beat was all I heard.
The orange hue in the sky told me sunrise was on the way and it also gave me a little visibility as she came closer to the dead calm shore...I decided to go in for a visit! I waded ever so slowly into the 18 inch water and I could see her dorsal fin within feet of me. For a moment, I was part of a rare handshake. I held the rod in my left hand, with the drag very light, due to their explosive nature in tight quarters. While I pressured the line with my left fore finger against the rod, I could see, dimly, by the angle of her head, that the hook was fastened in the right side of her mouth. There she was. Twelve inches from me. Her huge tail fanning back and forth and her gill plates opening and closing at a rate that evidenced her exhaustion. She had SUBMITTED! She was in a position that cost her the match and maybe her life. The tension in the line remained, but compassion and respect also flowed through the mono. I could hear my breathing and the two sweatshirts that did not seem warm enough minutes ago, caused the perspiration to run down my fore head. I stood there....and stood there......and stood there......and she remained, exausted, but calm. It was during this period of union that I knew why I surfcast..... To be part of moments like this...... To make memories in a paradise called Humarock.
I have caught many big stripers. And there length and weight are surely the facts of your catch. But I dare say I am good at estimating their size also. I decided to try and pull the hook as she sit by my side. The blackness of the water was not as black as the hook outline, and my needle nose had some direction. Rod in left hand, pliers in my right and a 40" striped bass by my side....A pose more designed for a brook trout than a 25 LB cow!!!!
Inch by inch I guided the pliers ........ to the hook. As soon as I gripped the metal gamagatsu, she did what I expected, and lurched furiously, pulling the hook free, and herself.
I watched the SUNRISE, smiling........you know, I am getting pretty good at this!!!!!!!