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Sports Center

Dec 13, 2011 10:31 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Letting Go Is So Hard

Dec 13, 2011 10:42 AM

It’s funny how hard it is for some of us to “let go” at the end of the fishing season.

I’ve got a surf stick on the roof of my truck still, but Monday and Tuesday morning I only found the gumption to take a quick glance at the ocean on the way to work, even though there have been some small stripers caught near Georgica Pond cut and in Southampton Village.

Others are not so lucky. They’re yearning for one more bump, one more dip of the rod tip and a hook set. I’ve been there, I feel for them.

My good friend Bryan is so beside himself that the tuna season is over—even though he had one of the best seasons many tuna fishermen would ever hope for—that he almost daily tries in vain to find a new obsession to occupy his convulsing brain. The stock market, motorsports, exercising—nothing has worked. Instead he’s spent thousands on new tuna rods he didn’t really need, watched the videos from his successful trips dozens of times and sent countless text messages about things he plans to do differently, or the same, or twice as much come next year’s offshore season.

Last Wednesday he took a desperate look at the satellite images of the ocean water temperatures over the continental shelf. It showed a huge red swirl of warm Gulf Stream water sweeping across Atlantis, Veatch and Hydrographers canyons. Instantly we were back to tuna season mode. Phone calls were made, weather forecasts checked, days off planned. Alas, the only boat at our disposal with the range and size to make a safe sprint 110 miles offshore at this time of year was in the shop until Tuesday, about 24 hours too late for the weather window that would have made for perfect canyon days Sunday and Monday. (I’m told Reel Action apparently made the run but no word on their findings as of Tuesday morning). Bryan is restless again.

But as what will probably be the last striped bass fillets of the 2011 season harden in my freezer, I find myself less melancholy than usual. Despite the poor fall of striper fishing—or, perhaps, because of it—I’m rather looking forward to the offseason. This is probably because I am hoping it will be less of an “off” season than usual.

In general we here in the Northeast live in about a six or seven month fishing world. Especially for most of the last 25 years or so, our loved ones could count on their fisherman being distant, restless and absent most of the time from approximately early May to about the first week of December, basically the duration of the striped bass fishing season—since they are typically the first gamefish to arrive in our waters and the last to leave. In between there are days of fluke and offshore fishing to augment the nearly daily hunt for stripers.

Aside from the fresh fish dinners, significant others at least could take solace in knowing that for basically half the year, us hopeless fishing addicts would be around the house and generally willing to partake in the chore or excursion of their direction.

That window into normal life has been shattered by the rock of codfish populations rebounding in our waters. Now there’s a viable fishery available basically year-round. For me, at least, the anticipation of cold days at sea to come made the ending of the striped bass season much less painful.

That doesn’t mean I’m immune to hopeless optimism. When gilnets meant for striped bass entangled giant bluefin tuna in the last week within sight of land, I too was instantly thinking of how I could possibly get to them in my tiny boat. After hours of scheming I decided that the slim chances of seeing a tuna was not worth expending a day of rigging and a full day of targeting them on the water. Nonetheless, Sunday’s bottom fishing trip was outfitted with a pair of heavy tuna rods and two freshly rigged spreaders of 15-inch rubber squid. Sure enough, with the fish hold filling with sea bass, ling and porgies, the round, black humpbacks of giant bluefin tuna porpoised across the bow of our boat. Up came the lead and out went the trolling gear.

Of course, there were no bites to be had, that would have been too good a story. But the blood is boiling again. Bring on the cold.

Catch ‘em up. See you out there.

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