Will we ever tire of fishing for stripers?
Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 4, 2002
You can get tired of catching croakers, or so they say. I’ve never gotten tired of catching any fish. Every bite is sort of like Christmas. You wonder what is on the end of the line! That’s why single species fishing, such as bass fishing, hasn’t caught on with me – with one glaring exception. I don’t believe I could ever tire of catching striped bass.
The closest I ever came to tiring of catching stripers was on the James River back in the early ’60s. I was fishing with Jimmy Smith, formerly of Hopewell, and we were fishing nights on that wrecked barge that lies just off the mouth of Chippokes Creek.
Our technique was a bit unique. Using a very powerful light we attracted shad minnows to our boat where we caught them in a fine mesh dip net. We hooked the minnows through the head on number four hooks and drifted them over the wreck. We used no sinkers. A striper awaited every bait. We must have caught sixty or seventy of them each night.
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Ever since I started fishing for stripers in Jersey in the ’30s there was an 18- inch size limit and the ten fish daily creel limit. It took a long time for striped bass conservation to reach Chesapeake Bay. The stripers had to almost disappear before the feds stepped in and made the states conserve them.
I started fishing for stripers in the surf and from the jetties at a place called Deal, NJ in 1937. At the tender age of eight I tagged along with a veteran striped bass man, Abe Poland, who was in his 60s at the time. A few years later I was catching them on my own from the jetties and along the Point Pleasant-Bay Head Canal.
One of the things about fishing that I never have outgrown is the thrill of watching a bobber when a fish bites the bait. Once, on a hunch, I tried using a bobber on stripers. My son, John, and I were fishing for them from a very long pier at the Earle Naval Ammunition Depot in Raritan Bay, NJ. I swear that pier was about a mile long. I put a sandworm on a hook under a bobber and let it drift along the pier.
When the strike came I was totally unprepared for the quickness and violence of it. The red and white plastic bobber vanished with an explosive pop and my reel began to sing. It wasn’t that the fish was so big. My tackle was a bit light, standard freshwater spinning gear. The battle was not long or even the least bit spectacular. The striper weighed about seven pounds, but what a strike! Wow!
In case you are wondering, a sandworm is also called &uot;clam worm.&uot; It’s green with red legs and ranges from eight inches long to a foot. It can and does bite whenever it gets the chance. In Jersey you can buy them in the bait shops or you can find them by digging in the sandy gravel in the tidal rivers wherever you find soft clams, sometimes called &uot;steamers.&uot; To toughen them up I used to wrap them individually in a paper napkin and, using a cigarette carton, store them in the refrigerator (NOT the freezer) over-night. I have never encountered clam worms here in Virginia.
Getting back to the croakers, I talked with a voice out of the past yesterday. Some of you may remember Chris Ford who used to own Red Ford and Son Sporting Goods in Richmond. Chris said he had enjoyed some great croaker fishing in the Rappahannock and he wondered if the fishing was as good in the York and James? I think all three rivers are great for croakers based on the reports I receive. My son, fishing from the bank in the James at Hog Island in Surry, has caught loads of them, including one that weighed 2-1/2 pounds. He uses squid most of the time.
Ken Neil of the Peninsula Saltwater Sportsmen reports that the offshore fishing remains red hot with blue marlin , white marlin, bluefin and yellowfin tuna and dolphin providing the fireworks. The bluefins, says Ken, are wide spread. The Southern Tower is a good bet and the waters at the western side of the Cigar are productive. The 10-fathom hump inside of the weather buoy is sometimes productive. The bluefins range from 20 to 60 pounds with an occasional 300 pound or heavier giant showing up. Spadefish and amberjacks are on wrecks and around structure closer in. Cobia are doing fairly well in the bay.
Actually, this past week has been an exceptionally good one. The number of cobia citations about doubled. Of the 81 cobia citations now on the books, 35 were caught last week. Croaker citations went from 51 to 61. There were 107 dolphin citations, bringing he total for the year to 234. Forty flounder citations were added bringing that total to 114. White marlin increased from one to 11 and false albacore went from 1 to 4. If the weather holds this should be another great week – but, proving that one man’s feast can be another man’s poison, our rivers and streams are running very low and we really could use a good soaking rain.
The current dry period could be a problem for wood ducks that make great use of forest pools, many of which have dried up. From the Safari Club International we hear that Canada has problems with poachers, too. Over 35 people have been arrested in a caribou poaching case in Quebec and as many as 70 arrests are anticipated. In British Columbia officials are looking for the persons responsible for jacklighting 13 elk and two deer.
Jack Randolph’s column appears regularly in the News-Herald.