One way to get a fisherman thinking is to make him wait. You get that time at a two lane boat ramp when a freshly detailed crossover with a yellow plate is parked in the middle of both, while the driver provides a lesson in roof rack ratchet straps to the passenger, who who has a look of low blood sugar. Since there are laws to prevent our less evolved side from backing our trailer down to within an inch of their driver’s door or using outside voices to explain just how irritated we are and what those little white lights on the back to the truck mean, it does reminds us of how important common sense and etiquette are on the water.
Would you step onto Capt. Jim White’s bright white Triton center console wearing old black soled winter fishing boots you bought back when swordfish were still landed on Block Island? Would you knowingly allow lines to cross when fishing The Ditch just because you were there first? Would you casually fillet your catch at the fancy new Galilea boat ramp dock, especially if you were from away, while others circled, waiting for a spot, losing patience and time, then leave behind your bloody mess? Do we really need another sign telling us what we already know we should do? You know the guy who races up at 20 knots just to drive down the school of fish you were working on from the edges? It’s etiquette and common sense, man.
The blame for some getting too casual overall lies on past IBM Chairman Louis Gerstner, who took the starch out of employee shirts back in 1993, opening the hatch to black socks with Tevas, Crocs with pleated khaki’s and college kids shopping for cereal in anime-print pajamas. Perhaps we are over-focused on catching due to a short summer season or the price of pretty much everything, but some among us have forgotten that many of us go fishing to remove ourselves from all those frustrating moments in our daily lives.
Remember when you dragged your blue collar butt out of bed at 3:00 am, half-slept through a cup of coffee on Rt.1 and perched yourself on a nice piece of cobble bottom just east of the Ocean Mist, to cast into the deep darkness for that brave and very hungry short water striper? Then in the creeping haze of first light, a Cabelas commercial appeared 25 feet from you and started casting in your general direction? You didn’t think, “Praise the Lord, I thought I was going to have to fish this sunrise all by myself!”, you wanted to go all Old Timer on him but nowadays you get sued just for serving hot coffee. Common sense tells you not to whistle a show tune while chumming, knowing it brings up the wind or step aboard with your left foot. Bananas have no place on a boat, hatches never get turned upside down and while there is an old superstition that he who swears while fishing will catch no fish, based on the boats I’ve been on, this one is very much untrue.
The larger fluke seemed to have headed for deeper waters in the 80’ range but the younger crowd is still picking through a few off Jim’s Dock, in addition to the usual tackle-stealing hangups. Beaded fluke rigs and bucktails tipped with squid or minnows are still winners. As keeper fluke numbers have decreased, the black sea bass continue to thick from Watch Hill to Nebraska Shoals to lower Narragansett Bay.
Some south shore spots continue to be awash in red weed, making it exceedingly difficult to cast from shore or troll in close. This may be the species Spermothamnion repens and when it’s in heavy, underwater visibility becomes limited. These small weeds can irritate the gills of some fish and the reels of surfcasters, the latter still hurting from a slow beach striper season. Mother Nature may keep it around until cooling weather patterns change the prevailing wind direction.
Meanwhile, the stellar striped bass season continues off Block Island. Bass in the 30-40 pound range are still around South West Ledge with some making the move to other sides of the island and into surfcasting range. With all the big fish action, there is a growing call to anglers to cut back on keeping so many of the trophy class fish. Some folks took home the wrong message from Marlin Perkins and Jim Fowler, overwhelmed with the need to line their walls with heads and tails. It’s easy to advocate from a recliner but the best way to help ensure more years of great fishing is to, well, not take all the fish, especially the cows.
One very recent report had an estimate of 150 boats on the ledge. It’s hard to say how many were charter boats but even if one quarter was and each had 6 customers fishing and even if each caught just one keeper bass, that’s, hold on, carry the one, that’s 225 bass removed in just one day from just a fraction of the boats. And the legal limit is 2 fish per person per day. The rest likely had at least 2 fishermen on the boat, which means a lot more mature fish landed in the cooler. So it’s a quick, back of the chart kind of math here but the message is clear: we are removing a lot of big fish in a short amount of time. Common sense says this won’t last forever.