|BIG STRIPER STORIES|
|I finally get my fifty --- By David Silver|
|SOMEWHERE ON THE EAST SIDE., BLOCK ISLAND, RI., August 5, 2010, 3:00 a.m. --- I was on my annual summer fishing junket to Block Island and the fishing was much slower than usual. I'd been hitting a favorite nighttime spot on the east side of the island with needles and swimmers and I hadn't picked up any fish over about 12 pounds. A regular striperjunkie.com reader, Chris Groves, had emailed me suggesting I try eels. I hadn't used eels for a while, so that that night I took four eels to the same spot and, sure enough, I had my best night of the trip - consistent action and a couple fish over 20 lbs. So, the next afternoon I stopped at Twin Maples and picked up a half dozen eels for a long night of fishing. The spot that I like fishes best with a SW wind and when the tide is in. There was a 10-15 mph SW wind, so with a 3:30 am high tide, I headed out to my spot at about 1:00 in the morning.
There was steady, but not constant action all night. I was probably getting some kind of bump or take every five or six casts. My first fish was 37". Then, over about an hour, I caught a few stripers between 31 and 35 inches. At about 2:00 a big fish took my eel, I set the hook and a few minutes later I landed a 43 incher that I weighed with my hand scale at 32 lbs. I could have called it a night, but it's a good thing I didn't.
I moved about 20 feet to my left, to a spot where my friend Dick had landed a 42 lb striper a couple years earlier, and I waded back in with the same used eel that the 43 incher had taken. For the next 45 minutes or so I missed several fish. I would get a nice take with the eel, but I couldn't seem to set the hook. I was getting a little frustrated. Then, at a little before 3:00 am, I got another strong take. I slowly dropped the rod tip about 90 degrees until it almost touched the water and I could feel the fish start to take line. I put my hand on the spool and set the hook with a strong upwards motion - this time it really set. The fish first ran to the bottom, which is typical in this area, and tried to scrape the hook off on the rocky floor of the ocean. Then, it just took off north, parallel to shore. I turned and faced north and my reel was screaming - zzzz, zzzz, zzzz, zzzz. Fifty yards, then 75, 100 and I would guess close to 150 yards. I just stood there wondering what could take line like that. I knew that I had to walk with the fish, so I started taking small, careful steps backwards towards shore which was about 20 yards behind me. The rocks are slippery and range from softball to bowling ball sized so you have to go real slow to keep your footing. The fish kept taking line. Now, I started walking with the fish along the rocky shoreline - careful to keep the fishing pole between my legs with the tip up high. Sometimes I would recover some line and sometimes the fish would run some more. I walked for a long time - slowly. Eventually I caught up and the big, strong fish was straight out in front of me - maybe 50 yards. It didn't have much left, but it wasn't going to help me either, so I had to slowly horse it in - all the while thinking that something was going to open or go snap. At about 20 yards out I could see the giant tail and the big dorsal making that slow back-and-forth motion, but you never know if the hook is just hanging on by a thread. A few more pulls and then a small wave gave me a little help. I grabbed the leader and pulled and then, finally, there was a pop and the knot on the hook opened. I put my hand under the gill and pulled it on to the beach.
I stared at the fish for a couple minutes wishing that I weren't alone so another fisherman could be admiring this jumbo Striper along with me. I found my tape, but it isn't easy measuring a fish that size unless you have Kevin Garnett's wingspan and I don't. I measured 50 inches and it had impressive girth. It was not easy to drag it the 50 yards to where I'd left my bag and I knew the car was an additional quarter mile away. I re-rigged, put on a fresh eel and went back to the spot for another 20 minutes. No action, so at 3:30 I started the long, very slow trek back to the car. It felt like I was pulling a big, loaded sled. The cooler I keep in my car is the super-jumbo size but the fish had to bend at the tail and head to fit. I had to kill time until 9:00 when Twin Maples tackle shop opens. After breakfast at Bethany's, I was the first at Twin Maples. Eight years of fishing on BI, and many big fish, but I had never brought in a fish to be weighed so John Sweinton had an idea it might be a big one.
He put it on the old balance and asked me to guess and, not wanting to embarrass myself, I ventured 46 lbs. It was 52 lbs, 4 oz. and a hair over 50 inches. After many photos and oohs and ahs from the Twin Maples guests, I took it down to the dock and filleted. Every last ounce of the nearly 20 lbs of fillets was used for fish chowder and fish cakes the following winter. That was August, 2010, and I've been told that no fifty pounder has been taken from the surf on BI since - but you can't know that for sure.